Americans Agree on the Importance of Oral Health

By The Delta Dental Institute

Despite differing views on health care policy, communities from California to Maine recognize the significant role oral health plays in overall health, and overwhelmingly support legislation that would improve access to oral health care for all Americans. National polling data has given the Delta Dental Institute greater insight into Americans' policy priorities. Here is what we learned:

1. Ninety-two percent of Americans agree oral health impacts overall health. A healthy smile not only improves every aspect of people's lives – from confidently saying hello to a coworker to proudly reading a child a bedtime story – but also helps prevent complications from other serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes. However, the need for oral health care continues to outpace people's ability to access it. For example, Pennsylvania only has enough dental care providers to meet 39 percent of the need; and this is a trend we've seen repeated in nearly every state from New Mexico to Florida.

2. Eighty-seven percent of Americans support federal legislation that improves access to dental benefits for children. Research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows poor oral health is incredibly detrimental for children's social and medical outcomes. In fact, American children miss more than nine million full school days each year due to oral health problems. Improving access to oral health care for children means more time spent learning and playing and less time spent at the dentist's office or in the emergency room.

3. Eighty-five percent of Americans support federal legislation that helps expand access to dental benefits for all Americans. In 2016, while 91 percent of Americans had medical insurance, only 77 percent had dental benefits. Dental benefits are designed to encourage regular, preventative care to avoid costly visits to treat emergency dental issues. Untreated and often preventable oral health problems send more than 2.1 million Americans to the emergency room each year. Moving people out of the emergency room and into a dentist's office would improve American's overall health while saving an estimated $1.7 billion each year. When more Americans can access oral health care, costs go down and people's quality of life goes up. That’s why it's so important to support funding for oral health initiatives that help break down barriers to oral health care; especially for underserved populations.

Want to learn more about the public’s views on oral health in your state? Check out our map featuring state-level polling data here