FAIR Health Consumer Survey: Disparities in Oral Health and ER Use for Oral Care Persist

New York, USA – Twenty per cent of consumers in the US say they never visit the dentist, or do so only when they need urgent treatment, according to a new consumer survey conducted by FAIR Health. This statistic increases to 30 per cent for households with annual incomes of less than $35,000 and falls to less than 10 per cent for households with incomes of $100,000 or more.

Responses from African-Americans, Latinos and individuals living in lower-income households, as well as adults with a high school diploma or less, indicated that they visited the dentist less frequently than other racial, ethnic or socio-economic groups included in the survey. African-Americans and Latinos are more likely than the total population to report that someone in their household visited a hospital emergency room (ER) for oral healthcare in the past five years.

“The hospital ER setting is not necessarily the appropriate location to receive most emergency or routine dental care,” said Robin Gelburd, president of FAIR Health, a national, independent, non-profit corporation dedicated to healthcare cost transparency and health literacy. “Generally, a dentist’s office or a dental clinic is the better choice for dental services. Unfortunately, lower-income consumers might delay dental care to avoid out-of-pocket expenses. Residents of underserved communities also face cost and transportation hurdles in seeking care. Sometimes, the delay in care can lead to more serious health problems.”

These are just a few of the findings featured in Consumer Attitudes: Dental Treatment and Insurance, FAIR Health’s new report that analyses the results of its consumer survey. The report underscores the fact that disparities in oral health persist across socio-economic lines despite the progress made in dental care in recent decades.


Alternative access to care

Eleven per cent of consumers say they have used or would consider using “daily deal” sites for discounted access to dental services. Millennials (ages 18 to 34), African-Americans, Latinos and men express the strongest interest in using these sites to save money on dental services.

Latinos are the most likely ethnic group to state that a member of their household received dental care at a community clinic in the past five years, and consumers with a high school education or less are most likely to say they would be willing to receive treatment from a dental school or community health clinic to save money.

“Understanding consumer attitudes about oral health and insurance and dental utilisation trends can help industry leaders take steps to equip individuals with the resources they need to become informed consumers – and consequently to help improve oral health and address health disparities,” added Ms. Gelburd.


The survey was conducted from July 23 to 26, 2015 by ORC International’s Telephone CARAVAN®. The combined sample consisted of 1,028 US-based adults. The margin of error was +/-3.06 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.