Cost Remains Largest Barrier in Accessing Oral Healthcare

Dentistry Today


Cost is the most common reason why people don’t seek the oral health services that they need, according to the Oral Health Workforce Research Center (OHWRC) at the University at Albany’s Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) in collaboration with the Association of American Medical Colleges. 

Most of the survey respondents who indicated a need for dental care did receive those services within a year (70.9%). The most common barriers to seeking that care included the inability to pay for it (22.2%), followed by difficulty finding a dentist who accepted their insurance (7.0%), anxiety about going to the dentist (6.7%), and an inability to find time to see a dentist (6.3%). 

The most common facilitators of obtaining needed oral health services were having dental insurance (22.0%), the availability of dentists who accept the respondent’s insurance (16.1%), and more convenient hours of dental services (11.5%). According to the researchers, the policy implications for this study include:

  • A comprehensive adult Medicaid dental benefit could potentially increase the utilization of dental services and improve oral health outcomes.
  • Strategies to expand access to services include supporting new and existing capacity in the oral health safety net.
  • Good oral health literacy can lead to improvements in oral hygiene and play an important role in increasing access to needed oral health services.

“While nationwide trends show a decrease in utilization of oral health services among US adults, declines differ dramatically among specific racial and ethnic groups, as well as by socioeconomic characteristics. These continue to be power determinants of access to and utilization of care,” said CHWS project director Simona Surdu.

“Current national and state efforts to expand access to high-quality oral healthcare and to educate the public about the importance of maintaining good oral health should continue in order to improve the oral health status among underserved populations,” said Surdu. 

The study, “Consumer Survey of Barriers to and Facilitators of Access to Oral Health Services,” was published by CHWS.

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