CareQuest Study Reveals Lower-Income Families Spend 7X More on Dental Care

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Report reveals deep, income-based health disparities for dental patients between 2007 and 2021.

CareQuest Study Reveals Lower-Income Families Spend 7X More on Dental Care | Image Credit: © CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

CareQuest Study Reveals Lower-Income Families Spend 7X More on Dental Care | Image Credit: © CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

A new Care Quest Institute for Oral Health® report shows that poorer families paid 7.4 times more in out-of-pocket expenditures for dental care compared to high-income families between 2007 and 2021. The report, “Lower-Income Families Still Spend More on Dental Care,” also reveals that families living in poverty and those with lower incomes were less likely to have visited a dentist in the past year compared to families with higher incomes in the U.S.

Further revealing deep health disparities based on income, the report 

shows that between 2007 and 2021, the most recent data available, inequities in out-of-pocket expenditures between the poorest and wealthiest families in the U.S. have continued to grow. In 2007, the poorest families paid 5.5t imes more out of pocket for dental treatments.

“As these inequities continue to widen, we need solutions to make dental coverage and care more accessible and affordable for low-income families,” CareQuest Institute CEO and President Myechia Minter-Jordan, MD, MBA, says in a press release this week. “While we’ve seen some progress in recent years, policymakers need to do more to fully address these disparities, including expanding Medicaid adult dental coverage.”

The CareQuest report recommends comprehensive Medicaid adult dental benefits in all states, increased dental provider participation in Medicaid, and support for safety-net providers serving low-income patients as solutions to make dental coverage and care more accessible and affordable for low-income families. Incentivizing oral health providers to practice in Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas can also help improve access to affordable oral health care in these geographies.he report suggests.

Additional Key Findings Include:

  • The percentage of individuals with at least 1 dental visit within the prior year was substantially lower among poorer households (~25%) than wealthier ones (~55%).
  • When people from lower-income families can receive dental care, their households bear a disproportionate burden of out-of-pocket dental costs.
  • Comprehensive Medicaid adult dental benefits in all states, increased dental provider participation in Medicaid, and support for safety-net providers serving low-income patients are just a few solutions that would make dental coverage and care more accessible and affordable for low-income families.

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health® is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health.

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