74% of Adults Visited Their Dentist Last Year Despite Pandemic

74% of Adults Visited Their Dentist Last Year Despite Pandemic

Oral health care has become a greater priority over the past year, study finds
A dentist cleans teeth

In the middle of a global health crisis — and perhaps even because of it — more Americans are making their well-being a priority. A new report from dental insurance provider Delta Dental Plans Association shows this sentiment extends specifically to their oral health as well.

The 2020 State of America's Oral Health Report found that the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t dented consumers’ focus on oral health care. Among those surveyed, a clear majority (74% of adults and 88% of children) reported visiting a dentist in 2020.

Consumers increase focus on dental health during pandemic

According to Delta Dental, 90% of adults and 94% of parents of children 12 and under believe that maintaining their oral health has been crucial to protecting their overall health during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result, dental visits saw little drop-off from the previous year, with 57% visiting their provider for a dental cleaning (versus 59% in 2019), and 81% of children making a preventive care visit (versus 89% in 2019).

Although physical discomfort and pain are some of the most common problems that stem from neglecting oral health, Delta Dental found that they are just the tip of the iceberg. Over five in 10 adults (51%) reported issues such as:

  • Losing sleep (41%)
  • Missing work (23% of employed adults)
  • Spending a large amount of money (34%)

Despite COVID-19 risks, many Americans continue to visit their dentist

Although the brunt of oral care is done at home, regular visits to the dentist are important, too. Delta Dental reported little drop-off from the previous year, with 57% visiting their provider for a dental cleaning (versus 59% in 2019), and 81% of children making a preventive care visit (versus 89% in 2019).

Meanwhile, an even larger segment — 93% of adults — said that they planned to visit the dentist sometime this year.

However, the large proportion of those making a dental visit doesn’t mean that health care consumers have put away any fear of pandemic-related risks.

For instance, a recent survey from the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions found that over 30% of Americans did not see their doctor for a routine checkup during the pandemic.

When it comes to dental care, some of the biggest barriers that prevented consumers from visiting their dentist this year included …

  • Not comfortable visiting during the pandemic
  • Not having dental insurance
  • Can't afford out-of-pocket costs
  • Closed dentist office due to COVID-19
  • Not wanting to spend the money

As evidenced by these responses, health care costs place a huge financial burden on the average American — and the pandemic has only made it worse. A recent Gallup poll found that 46 million people wouldn't be able to pay for quality health care if they needed it right now.

These costs prevent 40% of adults from having dental insurance, according to Delta Dental's findings. In particular, 34% cited a lack of funds to pay the monthly premium, and 29% were worried about additional out-of-pocket costs.

But with the pandemic likely making health and well-being more of a priority than in the past, many parents with uninsured children (79%) and uninsured adults (47%) said they were expanding their health care coverage to include dental care.

Additionally, 9 in 10 adults that already have dental insurance said the cost of coverage was worth it. They cited benefits such as …

  • Peace of mind (95%)
  • Good oral health (96%)
  • Better oral health habits (93%)
  • Cost savings (91%)

Methodology: Delta Dental Plans Association and Kelton Global gathered the data for this report between Dec. 28, 2020 and Jan. 8, 2021 using email invitations and two separate online surveys:

  • The Adult's Oral Health & Wellness Survey questioned a nationally representative sample of over 1,067 American adults ages 18 and up
  • The Children's Oral Health & Wellness Survey questioned a nationally representative sample of 1,071 American parents with children ages 12 and under

Feli Oliveros is a finance and business writer with experience covering personal finance, small business finance, and payment processing. In 2015 she graduated from UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Anthropology.