Half of adults over 65 lack dental insurance, study finds

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A December 2019 poll conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that around 50% of adults aged 65 to 80 go without dental insurance.

The same poll, titled the University of Michigan National Poll on Health Aging, also found that cost is a main factor in choosing whether or not to opt-in to dental insurance — and that NOT having dental insurance is the main reason people choose to forgo needed dental care. 

Lack of Insurance Affects Ability to Get Proper Care

The poll found that 1 in 5 adults didn’t get the dental care they needed when they needed it over the last 2 year because they couldn’t afford it at the time or did not have dental insurance. Of the people who did have dental insurance, half of them had coverage through employers or their spouse’s employers.  And while 98% reported their dental care was a priority to them, only 67% said they had been to the dentist for preventative care in the year prior. Yet, more than 85% of adults surveyed said getting dental care was easy and they weren’t limited by their mobility.

This reveals a gap in the availability of affordable dental coverage, as twice the number of people went uninsured than the number of people who chose a non-employer sponsored option, while the rest opted for a government-administered plan like Medicare. Those with income of $30,000 or less, along with adults with lower education, Black or Hispanic adults and disabled people, chronically ill people or those with poor physical or mental health were the least likely to report good dental health or regular oral care. The problem isn’t rectified by government healthcare programs by Medicare, either — typically, dental care isn’t covered by these programs, save a few exceptions. 

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Dental Care Is a Necessity, Not a Luxury 

Oral health is becoming increasingly recognized as a major factor in both preventing disease and diagnosing it, with oral health issues often being an early indicator of developing illnesses. Poor oral health walks hand in hand with many of the most debilitating and common diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. 

Other findings from the poll were compiled in a survey, Dental Care and Coverage after 65: Experiences and Perspectives. The survey was published in spring of 2020 and highlights the desperate need for more widely available education, resources and affordable dental insurance options to preserve the health of not only adults over 65, but of our society at large. Without more resources to get people the dental insurance and care they need, our collective health suffers.

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