Who has dental benefits?

At year-end 2012, approximately 187 million Americans (2013 NADP/DDPA Joint Dental Benefits Report on Enrollment) or 60 percent of the population  had dental benefits. About 99 percent of dental benefits are provided through an employer or other group programs like AARP. Group coverage also includes public programs like Medicaid, the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, and TriCare which provides coverage for the military. While individual dental coverage is limited, it 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.)

There are 126,652,000 Americans without dental coverage - that is 2.67 times more than the medically uninsured. These individuals 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.

Also see NADP Issue Brief: Dental in the Marketplaces: Consumer Tips on Shopping for Dental