Drilling Down: Access, Affordability, and Consumer Perceptions in Adult Dental Health

Nadereh Pourat


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Although many Californians have dental insurance, even those with coverage may not be getting the dental care they need, including people who get dental benefits under Medi-Cal. Those with public insurance are more likely to delay care and to report that they have poor dental health than those with private coverage. Also, those with public coverage may not even be aware that they have coverage, which only adds to the likelihood that they don’t seek care when they need it.

These are some of the findings of a 2007 Harris Interactive survey of California adults that looked at dental health by insurance status, income, and ethnicity, as well as perceptions about appropriate frequency of care and the importance of good dental health for overall health status.

Other findings include:

  • Large proportions of some groups report fair or poor dental health: African Americans (40%), Latinos (43%), those with incomes below $25,000 (54%), and the publicly insured (54%).
  • Nearly two out of five (39%) California adults do not have dental insurance coverage.
  • Sixty percent of adults aged 18 to 64 with Medi-Cal don’t know that they have dental benefits to cover their care.
  • Seventy-three percent of adults do not know that cavities are infectious and can be spread from person to person.
  • Affordability of dental care is the number-one reported barrier to access to dental care. Affordability concerns are most common among the uninsured, but also plague the privately and publicly insured.

The complete findings are available under Document Downloads.