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Dental benefits going unused

Friday November 07, 2014 Written by 
One in four adults with dental insurance don't take full advantage of their preventive care benefits.

Despite typical dental plans covering preventive checkups every six months, Americans are avoiding getting any care during the year because of a fear of the cost or a fear of the dentist, according to a new survey by Cigna. Others, particularly those who only see the dentist annually, say they don’t feel the need to get checked more frequently because their teeth don’t hurt.

“Absence of pain does not mean absence of problems. It is important that we help individuals overcome the barriers to obtaining preventive dental care that the study identified. The longer the wait between dental visits, the more likely a problem will develop,” said Miles Hall, DDS, Cigna Dental’s chief clinical director. “Often more complicated problems are more expensive to treat, leading to the very situation that consumers want to avoid.”

Hall said the results point to a missed opportunity for consumers to get more value from their dental insurance because most plans cover in-network preventive care visits every six months with no or low out-of-pocket costs. Preventive care services can include an exam, teeth cleaning and certain x-rays.

Cigna's "Why People with Dental Insurance Skip Oral Health Checkups: Key Insights into the Barriers to Preventive Dental Care" surveyed 500 men and women between the ages of 26 and 64 who have dental insurance but fail to go for dental checkups twice a year.

The study found that 63 per cent of people 26 to 34 years old who visit the dentist no more than once a year say their oral health is very good or excellent. This falls to 55 per cent for people between the ages of 35 and 44, 33 per cent for those 45 to 54 and 31 per cent for those 55 to 64.

Parents and guardians are more diligent about their children’s oral health than their own. Four out of five adults who did not get a dental exam themselves during the course of a year took their children at least once.

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