Americans support including dental coverage in health-care reform

Eighty-one percent agree that dental benefits are as important as general medical benefits in one's overall healthcare benefit package.

Nearly two in three U.S. adults (63%) think that it is important that dental coverage is part of an overall health reform package, and 40 percent say it is very important, according to a new public opinion survey commissioned by Oral Health America.

The survey, sponsored by the Dental Trade Alliance Foundation, and conducted by Harris Interactive, was released today at the launch of National Smile Month, the largest independent international campaign promoting good dental care including brushing, regular dental visits, and healthy food choices as well as the need for effective oral healthcare policies.

According to the survey results, a vast majority of adults know that lack of proper dental care can lead to overall poor health. About four in five adults, fully 81 percent, agree that dental benefits are as important as general medical benefits in one's overall healthcare benefit package, and nearly half (48 percent), strongly agree with this statement.

The survey also shows that a majority of adults currently have a dentist and some form of dental benefit. A significant number of adults, however, currently report having an unmet dental need.

• Almost one out of every six people reported holding off going to the dentist because of uncertainty about their job and/or the economy.

• Almost one-third of those with low incomes are holding off on seeing the dentist, even though their needs are great.

The desire to have some level of guaranteed dental coverage as part of any health care reform effort is clearly present in the U.S. population. Many even go as far as saying that, even if the government has to provide it, dental coverage should be extended to all uninsured Americans, especially children and the elderly.

Oral Health America is the nation's leading, independent organization dedicated to eliminating oral disease through access, education and advocacy. The Oral Health America Dental Survey was conducted by telephone within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Oral Health America between April 29 and May 3, 2009 among 1,011 adults ages 18 years and older.

National Smile Month is sponsored by Patterson Dental, Dental Trade Alliance Foundation, UnitedHealthcare Dental, and other dental industry leaders, and comprises a variety of initiatives during June to focus public attention on the connection between oral health and overall health. A simultaneous campaign runs in the United Kingdom through the International Dental Health Foundation. More information is at www.oralhealthamerica.org.

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