Who has dental benefits?

At year-end 2014, there were approximately 205 million Americans or 64 percent of the population with dental benefits[1]

About 92% of 155.3 million Americans with private dental plans get these benefits through an employer or other group program like AARP.  Another 7.2% buy individual coverage while just less than 1% obtain dental benefits as part of a medical plan.  Another 49.6 million Americans get dental benefits through public programs like Medicaid, the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, and TriCare which provides coverage for the military.  While individual dental coverage is only 7.2% of total coverage in 2014[2], just 3 years ago it was only 2% of coverage.  So clearly, individual coverage is a growing area of focus for many dental carriers. 

Americans with dental benefits are more likely to go to the dentist, take their children to the dentist, receive restorative care and experience greater overall health, according to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) report, The Haves and the Have-Nots: Consumers with and without Dental Benefits.

This report clearly shows that access to dental care is improved with dental benefits and that dental care improves oral health.  Given increasing connections between oral and overall health, dental coverage is critical for all Americans.  The choice for us as individuals and for our health care system is to pay for dental care now or pay more for medical treatment of dental complications later.  (A “Consumer White Paper” based on data from this report can is available from NADP.)

Some 114 million Americans have no dental coverage with 67.7[3] million under 65 years of age.  This is about twice the number of medically uninsured that are under 65 years of age.  With the opening of the ACA’s federal and state exchanges in 2014, the medically uninsured was reported as 32 million which was down 9 million from 2013.   Individuals without dental benefits are more likely to have extractions and dentures and less likely to have restorative care or receive treatment for gum disease.  Furthermore, those without dental benefits report higher incidences of other illness; they are

  • 67 percent more likely to have heart disease;
  • 50 percent more likely to have osteoporosis; and
  • 29 percent more likely to have diabetes.

They also visit the dentist less frequently—missing the opportunity for prevention and early treatment.  Many of them are among the 738,000 Americans annually that end up in emergency rooms for dental treatment.

[1] 2015 NADP/DDPA Joint Dental Benefits Report on Enrollment

[2] Individual coverage was 5% in 2012.

[3] Medicare does not include dental benefits, the dentally uninsured figure includes Americans over 65--about 46.3 million.

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