TUESDAY, Dec. 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Americans are more likely to skip needed dental care because of cost than any other type of health care, researchers report.
Working-age adults are particularly vulnerable, the study found. Some 13 percent reported forgoing dental care because of cost.
That's nearly double the proportion of seniors and triple the percentage of children for whom cost poses a barrier to dental care, the study showed.
Cost was the main impediment to dental care even for adults with private insurance.
"It seems like medical insurance is doing a better job at protecting consumers from financial hardship than dental insurance," said study author Marko Vujicic.
Typically, private dental insurance includes annual maximum benefit limits and significant "coinsurance" -- the patient's share of costs on covered services, Vujicic explained.
He is chief economist and vice president of the American Dental Association's (ADA) Health Policy Institute in Chicago.
"Anything beyond checkups, like getting a cavity filled or a root canal and a crown, you're looking right away at 20 to 50 percent coinsurance," Vujicic said.
Typical fees for fillings range from $86 to $606, according to a 2013 ADA Health Policy Institute survey. Root canals go for $511 to $1,274. For a crown, the range is $309 to $1,450.
Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the National Association of Dental Plans, agreed with the report that avoiding dental care can affect overall health.
Fortunately, the percentage of the population citing cost as a reason for not getting dental services has declined steadily since 2010, Ireland said. And in 2014, it was the lowest since 2003, she added.
Colin Bradley is vice president of business development at Winston Benefits Inc., a company that helps employers administer dental benefits.
He said employers who offer private dental plans must emphasize the value of those benefits, including preventive services often provided at no out-of-pocket cost.
The new study is published in the December issue of the journalHealth Affairs. The issue is devoted to oral health in America.
Collectively, one theme emerges: "that the divide between dental care and medical care is vast, has significant consequences for patients, and is entirely of our own making," wrote Alan Weil, the journal's editor-in-chief.
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