WASHINGTON, D.C. — About one in three U.S. adults say they did not visit the dentist at some point in the past 12 months. The 64.7% in 2013 who said they did visit the dentist at least once in the previous year is essentially unchanged from the rate found in 2008. Women are more likely than men to report visiting the dentist annually.
These findings are based on interviews with 178,072 American adults conducted during 2013 and with 354,645 adults conducted during 2008 as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Respondents were asked whether they had visited the dentist in the previous 12 months. Results for all years between 2008 and 2013 are similar.
The American Dental Association recommends that adults develop a plan for dental visits with their dentist, but say even those at low risk of oral disease benefit from at least annual cleanings. Thus, one in three American adults do not meet this minimum level of dental care.
Blacks, Hispanics, and Young Adults Least Likely to Visit Dentist
Among racial and ethnic groups, 55% of both blacks and Hispanics report visiting the dentist in the past year. Whites and Asians, in contrast, each are at about 70%, demonstrating that there is a notable racial and ethnic divide. Dental visit rates across most groups are similar to levels found in 2008, although there has been a small decline among blacks since that time.
In contrast, there are much smaller differences across age groups in reported dental behaviors. Young adults aged 18 to 29 are the 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 to 44.
Dental Habits Improve With Income
The most pronounced differences in dental habits are those across income groups. Those who earn $120,000 or more annually in household income are about twice as likely as those who earn less than $12,000 to say they visited the dentist in the past 12 months, 82.3% vs. 42.7%, respectively. Dental visit rates have held steady since 2008 for top earners, 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.
Annual Dental Visits Least Common in the South
Dental visit rates are essentially unchanged in all regions compared with 2008. As was the case in 2008, 2013 rates are lowest in the South (60.0%) and highest in the East (68.9%).
Married Adults Much More Likely Than Nonmarried to Visit Dentist
Marital status also influences dental decisions, with those who are married much more likely to report visiting the dentist annually than those who are not married. Those who are separated are the least likely to report visiting the dentist, and rates have dropped the most among this group — nearly six percentage points — since 2008.
Poor oral care can lead to many potential negative health