One-Third of Americans Skipped the Dentist in the Past Year

Washington, D.C.—More than one-third of Americans say they did not visit the dentist at all in the past year, according to a new Gallup poll.

The two-thirds of U.S. adults in 2013 who said they did visit the dentist at least once in the past 12 months is the same percentage as the one reported in 2008. Women are more likely than men to report visiting the dentist annually.

The report, released April 28, details findings based on interviews in 2013 with 178,072 American adults and interviews in 2008 with 354,645 adults as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Results for all years between 2008 and 2013 are similar.

    Among the findings:

  • Fifty-five percent of both African Americans and Hispanics reported visiting the dentist in the past year. Whites and Asians are at about 70 percent.
  • There are smaller differences across age groups in reported dental behaviors. Adults aged 18-29 are least likely to have visited the dentist but only marginally less so than those who are middle aged or older. An improved rate among seniors since 2008 is offset by a similarly sized decline among those 30-44.
  • The most pronounced differences in dental habits are those across income groups. Those who earn $120,000 or more annually are about twice as likely as those who earn less than $12,000 to say they visited the dentist in the past year—82 percent and 43 percent, respectively. Dental visit rates have held steady since 2008 for higher income individuals, while they have declined for all other groups, particularly for low- and middle-income households with incomes between $24,000 and $60,000 per year.
  • Dental visit rates are essentially unchanged in all regions compared with 2008. Rates are lowest in the South—60 percent—and highest in the East—69 percent.

  • Married adults are more likely than single adults to visit the dentist.

The American Dental Association recommends all adults visit their dentist regularly. Regular dental visits are important because they can help spot oral health problems early on when treatment is likely to be simpler and more affordable., the ADA’s website for the public, lists 15 signs that should prompt people to visit the dentist:

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What To Expect During a DENTAL VISIT

On your first visit, your dentist will take a full health history. On follow-up visits, if your health status has changed, make sure to tell your dentist. Here’s what you can expect during most trips to the dentist.

  • A Thorough Cleaning – a dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.

  • A Full Dental Examination – your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, looking for signs of disease or other problems.

  • X-Rays – X-rays can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.