For National Children’s Dental Health Month, the American Dental Association is marking the 10th anniversary of its Give Kids A Smile program, which offers free dental care and education for children in need.
Approximately 80 percent of tooth decay in the U.S. is suffered by 25 percent of the country's children, according to the National Institutes of Health, and according to our recent survey, the biggest reason for delaying dental care is cost.
The survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, asked readers to describe the dental health and cosmetic treatments they received in the last five years. CR subscribers tend to have better insurance coverage than Americans on average, but cost was still cited as a barrier by 43 percent of readers who delayed.
Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor at Consumer Reports, said that because cost is an issue, consumers need to be clear about the line between dental care that is necessary and the procedures they can live without.
Many dentists are trained to push for procedures, both cosmetic and non cosmetic, that will boost their bottom line. We were struck by the finding that nearly a half of those who had had a cosmetic procedure had been prompted to do so by their dentist.
A couple ways to keep dental costs down: Shop around and bargain by first looking up typical insurance paid rates in your area at FairHealthConsumer.org and HealthCareBlueBook.com, then ask providers to accept that amount, or less, as a cash payment. Also consider free and low-cost clinics and health centers. Some community health centers offer dental care with fees based on the ability to pay. Call your local health department to find one nearby.
For more tips see Tips for keeping dental care costs down. The full report Dental do's and don'ts: How to keep your teeth healthy without going broke (available to subscribers), appeared in the February issue of Consumer Reports.