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Research briefs available from Health Policy Institute

December 08, 2014 A new research brief published by the ADA Health Policy Institute shows the number of dentists in the U.S. will continue to grow over the next generation.

Under the most likely scenarios, the ADA’s model predicts that dental school graduations will exceed dentist retirements. The net increase of practicing dentists will exceed the corresponding growth of the U.S. population.

The new report, available at ADA.org/researchbriefs, shows the number of dentists practicing per 100,000 people today has climbed more than 4 percent from 2003 to 2013 and is projected to climb 1.5 percent from 2013 to 2018 and 2.6 percent by 2033.

Another HPI analysis found that the percentage of the U.S. population reporting that they were unable to access needed dental care declined between 2003 and 2012. These declines occurred across all age groups.
Additional ADA research suggests that the most effective policy changes to address access to dental care would focus on more prominent barriers to care such as cost, geography and education. Barriers related to the availability of a dentist were reported much less often by a very small percentage of the population and declined in all areas.

New research from HPI includes:

  • “Dental Care Utilization Rate Highest Ever Among Children, Continues to Decline Among Working-Age Adults.” HPI found that from 2011 to 2012, dental care utilization increased among children and decreased among working-age adults.
  • “Dental Benefits Expanded for Children, Young Adults in 2012.” More children had dental benefits in 2012 than in the previous year, representing a continuation of more than a decade-long trend. The percentage of children without dental benefits is at its lowest rate since the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the source of HPI’s data for this brief, began tracking dental insurance coverage in 1999.
  • “Fewer Americans Forgoing Dental Care Due to Cost.” The percentage of the population reporting cost as a barrier to receiving necessary dental care fell in 2013. This is the third year of this decline, reversing the increase that occurred from 2000 to 2010. Despite improvements in affordability over the last few years, cost still remains the most critical barrier to obtaining needed dental care.
  • “Supply of Dentists in the United States Is Likely to Grow.” Under what HPI considers the most probable scenario, the per capita supply of dentists in the United States is projected to increase through 2033.
  • “Most Important Barriers to Dental Care Are Financial, Not Supply Related.” Between 2004 and 2012, fewer Americans reported needing dental care but not getting it. In both periods, among a group of 11 types of barriers to receiving needed dental care, financial barriers were mentioned most often. The level of financial barriers was highest among low-income, nonelderly adults.
  • “A Ten-Year, State-by-State Analysis of Medicaid Fee-for-Service Reimbursement Rates for Dental Care Services.” HPI found that the average Medicaid fee-for-service reimbursement rate was 48.8 percent of commercial dental insurance charges for pediatric dental care services and 40.7 percent for adult dental care services. Over the past decade, Medicaid reimbursement for pediatric dental care services relative to market rates fell in 39 states. The available evidence strongly suggests that enhanced Medicaid reimbursement, in conjunction with other reforms, increases provider participation and access to dental care for Medicaid enrollees.
All of these briefs are available at ADA.org/researchbriefs.