Dental care? What, me worry?

Nearly 40 million adults in the U.S. report that they lack access to adequate healthcare. Almost 20 percent say they cannot afford dental care, prescription medicines, mental health care, or eyeglasses. No, this isn't from the script for a "Sicko" sequel. Rather, these are sobering statistics gleaned from "Health, United States, 2007," the annual report on the nation's health released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"There has been important progress made in many areas of health such as increased life expectancy and decreases in deaths from leading killers such as heart disease and cancer," said CDC Director Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H in a press release. "But this report shows that access to health care is still an issue where we need improvement."

Some notable highlights about Americans' dental health:

  • In 2005, 25 million adults did not get dental care because they could not afford it.
  • One-fourth of children between the ages of 2-17 did not visit the dentist in 2005. Of these children, those living below the poverty line were more likely to lack dental care.
  • In the same year, about one-half of adults living below the poverty line did not make a single visit to the dentist.
  • In some good news, the report noted that, "between 1988-1994 and 2001-2004, approximately one-quarter of adults 20-64 years of age had untreated dental caries, down from nearly one-half in 1971-1974."

The report cites cost of care, difficulty in navigating government assistance programs, finding a local dentist who accepts Medicaid, language/cultural barriers, and lack of insurance as some of the problems associated with accessing proper dental care.

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