Consumer Reports survey finds dental costs a barrier

The biggest reason for delaying dental care is cost, according to a new Consumer Reports survey that asked readers to describe the dental health and cosmetic treatments they received in the last five years (February 2012).

While subscribers to Consumer Reports tend to have better insurance coverage than Americans on average, cost was still cited as a barrier by 43% of readers who delayed, according to the publication.

"Consumers worry about pain when it comes to the dentist, but the financial burden of yet another medical expense is the greatest concern of all," stated Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor for Consumer Reports, in a press release.

Even so, the 51,768 Consumer Reports subscribers who participated in the survey were "overwhelmingly satisfied" with their dental care, according to the publication. In addition, few readers reported experiencing anything beyond mild pain, even for a root canal.

The survey also revealed that only a third of readers brush and floss when they should, and that some patients are paying for cosmetic treatments they don't need, such as teeth whitening, amalgam filling replacement, x-rays, and third-molar removal, according to Consumer Reports.

"Many dentists are trained to push for procedures, both cosmetic and noncosmetic, that will boost their bottom line," Metcalf said. "We were struck by the finding that nearly a half of those who had had a cosmetic procedure had been prompted to do so by their dentist."

The survey found that 17% of respondents who had a dental procedure for health reasons said they had delayed it. Even readers with insurance put off a treatment they needed; 23% did so because insurance wouldn't cover the procedure and 24% because they had already used up the maximum that their insurance plan would cover for the year.

Dental procedure costs

Here is what respondents to the Consumer Reports survey paid for some common dental procedures. Costs are based on average out-of-pocket payments.

Procedure Insured
(average cost)
(average cost)
Filling $141 $288
Filling repair $149 $265
Extraction $317 $501
Crown $563 $1,018
Root canal $593 $1,201
Gum treatment $598 $972
Bridge $1,479 $2,698
Implant $2,825 $3,938

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