On December 9, the Health Policy Institute (HPI) of the American Dental Association (ADA) published a large report on the state of the oral healthcare system. The report is overall a mixed bag about some of the progress that’s been made, especially in improving children’s access to dental care, but it has some bad news for adult New Yorkers getting access to dental care, including preventive dental care.
Fewer New Yorkers Making Dental Visits
As with the rest of the country, there was a huge increase in the number of children on Medicaid who saw the dentist in 2013, although New York lagged behind the rest of the country. In the US, 48% of children on Medicaid saw a dentist for a regular checkup or other reason in 2013, compared to 43% in New York, an increase from 35% and 32%, respectively, in 2005.
But New York children with private dental insurance saw the opposite trend. While 65% of New York children with private dental insurance saw a dentist in 2005, only 62% did in 2013. Nationwide, the number of children with private dental care who saw a dentist increased from 60% in 2005 to 64% in 2013.
Adult New Yorkers also saw a larger fall-off in dental visits than nationwide. Nationwide, the number of adults with private dental insurance who saw a dentist fell from 60% in 2005 to 59% in 2013. In New York, that number dropped from 61% to 58%. In other words, we went from an above-average state to a below-average state, and that just doesn’t seem right.
Oral Health Suffers
Since we’re making fewer dental visits, it’s not a surprise that our oral health is showing a similar trend. The oral health status index among high-income adult New Yorkers is only 7.9, compared to 8.2 nationally. Low-income adults are beating the national average, though, at 7.6 compared to 7.2 nationally.
People’s attitudes toward their oral health mirrors the objective index. High income New Yorkers have an oral health attitude index of 5.8 (on a scale from negative 10 to positive 10), compared to 5.9 nationally. Low income New Yorkers beat the national average, 4.1 to 4.0.
Costs Are Likely the Problem
The report shows that rising costs likely influenced the downward trend in dental visits. Although nationwide, charges for private dental insurance rose modestly, increasing only 1.2% for children and actually decreasing 0.6% for adults between 2003 and 2013, it was a different story in New York. In New York, charges increased by 5.4% for children and 3.8% for adults from 2003 to 2013.
The cost increases are also mirrored by a decrease in dentists in New York. The state’s dentist population decreased from 75 per 100,000 to 73.5 per 100,000 from 2001 to 2013. That’s still much higher than the national average of 60.5 dentists per 100,000 people, but it does impact access.
Don’t Let Anything Keep You from the Dentist
If you are one of the people who hasn’t seen a dentist this year, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make an appointment. With flexible payment options, we can help you fit dental care in your budget, and we can also help keep your smile healthy and attractive.