Residents of Washington State Give Their Oral Health a “C”

Dentistry Today


While residents in the state of Washington report that they are experiencing dental health issues, they aren’t seeking treatment due to the costs associated with seeing a dentist, according to a recent survey conducted by Guardian

The dental insurance provider notes that nearly half of the state’s residents know they have dental issues that need to be addressed immediately, but two-thirds of them are likely to put off dental procedures due to concerns about the cost. In fact, Guardian says, 72% say that unexpected dental procedures elicit more financial stress than paying taxes.

The survey further reveals that nearly half of Washingtonians grade their oral health a “C” or below, and only 14% would give themselves an “A.” Plus, 22% have missed work due to oral or dental pain, and 61% have lost a tooth or required an extraction due to oral health issues—and that increases to more than two-thirds of residents age 50 and older.

“The fear of unexpected costs is keeping Washingtonians from seeking proper dental care, and some simply can’t afford it at all,” said Randi Tillman, DMD, MBA, chief dental officer at Guardian. “Obtaining proper care now helps avoid serious dental problems and expenses later, so we urge people to act now to address their oral health issues and to help others if they can.”

The survey also found that only 45% have visited their dentist in the past six months, and only 17% have had a visit in the past year. A previous Guardian study found that nearly 60% of individuals who go to the dentist twice a year report very good or excellent oral health.

Plus, the earlier study confirmed that those who regularly use their dental benefits for preventive care save money on major restorative costs in the future. Thus, Guardian says, visiting the dentist now for regular preventive care can save residents money on future work needed and save time on missed work days.

Additional findings from the survey include:

  • While the ADA recommends taking children to the dentist no later than their first birthday, six in 10 parents in Washington put off the first dental visit until their children are at least 2 years old, with 22% waiting until their children are 4 to 6 years old. 
  • Two-thirds of Washingtonians report using their teeth for something other than chewing or eating, such as holding objects when their hands are full (49%).
  • Washingtonians say certain amenities would encourage them to visit the dentist, such as noise cancelling headphones (26%), television in treatment rooms (24%), onsite digital x-ray review technology (24%), massage systems for dental chairs (20%), and refreshments (20%).
  • 92% of Washingtonians are more likely to choose dentists who give back to their communities.

Low-income residents who are elderly, medically fragile, or living with a disability often don’t have the means to obtain proper dental care, Guardian adds, leading to chronic dental conditions that go untreated due to cost and lack of medical coverage. 

To help meet these needs, Guardian recently donated a $125,000 grant to Dental Lifeline Network to fund the 147 dental cases currently backlogged in Washington due to insufficient funding as well as expand its services over the next two years. To volunteer or donate to this cause, visit

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