Other key survey findings hint at why dental care may be out of reach: Approximately one in three respondents indicate that his or her take-home pay would be lower this year than in 2012. Forty-four percent say they do not currently have dental insurance, an issue that is even more significant among those with an annual income below $35,000 (61%).
"Unfortunately the results of this survey are not surprising. Since the recession began five years ago, the patients who walk through my doors have been increasingly stressed about whether they can afford the care they need," said Dr. Nathan Laughrey, DMD, who owns Aspen Dental practices in Pittsburgh Mills, Butler, and Cranberry, Pa.
"Many put it off until they just can't wait any longer, which means that they wait until they're in significant pain or having a dental emergency."
The survey also revealed a disconnect about the impact of oral health on overall health: Only one in 10 agree that routine dental visits for regular examinations and cleanings are "critical" to their overall well-being. Even in an emergency situation, only 57% percent of adults felt that going to the dentist to assess the situation was critical.
"It's a stark reminder of the need to improve understanding about the importance of dental care to patients' overall health as well as create better understanding about the long-term effects of ignoring dental visits, including the link between gum disease and serious health conditions like diabetes and stroke," Dr. Laughrey added.
The survey results are consistent with recent research showing a decline in health-care spending. According to an April 2013 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the slowdown in health-care spending has been driven by the broader economic downturn.
The telephone survey was conducted among two national probability samples, which, when combined, consisted of 1,005 adults, 501 men and 504 women 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States. Interviewing was completed on Feb. 28-March 3, 2013, and included 655 interviews were from the landline sample and 350 interviews from the cell phone sample.
CARAVAN interviews are conducted using ORC International's computer assisted telephone interviewing system.