Eighty percent of health insurers also offer dental insurance, up from 68% in 2018, and 48% offer adult dental benefits, according to a report from consulting firm West Monroe. Executives at health insurance companies prefer to offer a single, bundled product with a separately administered dental benefit, and West Monroe director Will Hinde says, "dental insurers that embrace the trend and get in front of it aggressively will be the winners."
The risk of coronavirus transmission cannot be entirely eliminated in dental care, but dentists have taken steps to reduce the risk, and no COVID-19 cases have been definitively linked to dental care, according to the CDC and World Health Organization. Small cavities can progressively worsen if care is delayed, turning an easy filling into a root canal or tooth extraction, and delaying needed dental care can lead to severe infections and death in extreme cases, says dentist Howard Golan.
The coronavirus pandemic is causing stress and anxiety, which might be leading some people to grind their teeth, says dentist Neil Hasty. He has seen more patients than usual reporting dental pain or with ground-down teeth, cracked crowns and broken fillings, and he suggests wearing a mouth guard and taking steps to reduce stress.
Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman says some dentists and physicians are adding charges for personal protective equipment, and some labs are charging high prices for COVID-19 tests. The billing practices might violate the terms of contracts between dental or health care providers and insurers, Altman says.
Dry mouth affected 11.7% of people age 75 and older responding to an oral health survey, and oral pain was reported by 6.2%, and those with complex care needs were the most likely to report oral health problems. The most robust respondents said they are able to visit a dentist without assistance, but those with frailty or complex care needs were more likely to need assistance.
Researchers using advanced imaging found that dental enamel comprises magnesium-rich nanometric layers as well as sodium, fluoride and carbonate ions. Impurities in the structure can make it vulnerable to erosion, and the findings, reported in Nature, could lead to new methods for strengthening dental enamel.
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Updated COVID-19 resources on WhyDental.org
Check out the COVID-19 section of WhyDental.org for current information for multiple audiences. Web pages in this section include Frequently Asked Questions, Carrier Responses and Advocacy. See WhyDental.org for details.