FAIR Health Assists in Understanding Dental Services and Costs

Because of high out-of-pocket expenses for dental services, consumers have tremendous interest in dental costs, which FAIR Health’s consumer website helps them understand. For policy makers and other stakeholders, we open a window into how people are accessing dental services.

Dental Consumer Tools

Many consumers face substantial out-of-pocket costs for dental care, whether because they have no dental insurance or are insured by Medicare (which does not cover most dental services), or because of the design of their dental plans. To plan for and manage their dental expenses, many consumers turn to FAIR Health’s consumer website, fairhealthconsumer.org. There they can use the FH® Dental Cost Estimator to learn how much dental procedures cost in their location, and get context with articles on the basics of dental insurance.

Articles in several media outlets have recommended FAIR Health Consumer for retirees planning for dental costs, including Kiplinger (in an article picked up by Yahoo! and Nasdaq), ThinkAdvisor and the Jamestown Post-Journal. In an article for Dentistry Today, FAIR Health President Robin Gelburd advised dentists on how to inform retired patients about dental coverage.

More than 15 percent of all traffic to FAIR Health Consumer comes from consumers looking up dental costs. They most frequently search for information on restorative crowns, teeth cleaning, veneers, surgical implant and root canal, in that order. Visitors looking for dental information represent all adult age groups, with consumers aged 25 to 34 the largest segment (27 percent). The largest portion of referral traffic to the site (more than 20 percent) comes from dental-focused publications or dental practices.

Data on Dental Trends

FAIR Health data can help policy makers, researchers and other stakeholders develop a deeper understanding of how people are availing themselves of dental services. For example, our data show the top dental diagnoses presenting in emergency rooms. Periapical abscess without sinus is the most common diagnosis, followed by dental caries (cavities), unspecified.

Our data reveal that periodontal services vary by age. Scaling and planing is the most common periodontal service for people aged 23 to 40, but antimicrobial agent delivery is the most common for people aged 51 to 70. Tooth extractions vary by urban versus rural setting. Impacted tooth extraction is performed more frequently in urban areas, while extraction of non-impacted, or “painful,” teeth is more common in rural areas.

“By offering tools for consumers to plan for dental costs, FAIR Health helps consumers on the ‘micro’ scale,” said Ms. Gelburd. “By providing data about how patients are using dental services, FAIR Health helps to advance sound policy making about dental care on the ‘macro’ scale.”