Study: Oral health care a growing problem in Colorado

Nearly one in four Coloradans last year opted out of needed dental care due to its prohibitive cost, and almost two out of five residents don’t have dental insurance at all, according to a Colorado Health Institute survey released Monday.
The results of the survey — conducted by the Colorado Trust — augur a growing, state-wide oral heath care problem. Colorado Trust cited increasingly unaffordable insurance coverage and barriers to access as primary culprits.
The number of Coloradoan’s without dental coverage increased 17 percent to 2.1 million in 2011, up from 1.8 million in 2009-2009.
More than a third of those Coloradans who said they didn’t get needed dental care because of cost actually had dental insurance, suggesting the insurance coverage was not adequate or a lack of availability of dental providers, especially in rural areas. Treatments not covered by insurance oftentimes included permanent crowns and prosthetics for extracted teeth — high-cost care increasingly likely to be forgone.
Those more likely to be uninsured include Hispanics (more than half), senior citizens (60 percent uninsured, making them the least-likely age group to have insurance), lower-income Coloradoans and those who live in rural regions — who were also the least likely of all the groups to visit a dental professional.

While 66,300 more children were found to have dental coverage as compared to 2008-2009, fewer had actually been to see a dental professional in the same period, the survey found. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of childhood, according to the institute.
The Colorado Trusts’ recommendations include making dental insurance coverage more substantive, encouraging more dental providers to accept both public and private insurance, and an examination of the distribution of the existing oral health workforce. Increased education and preventive care were also suggested.

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