Here's an angle to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) you don't often hear: the effect of the legislation on oral health. There is little doubt that the implementation of the ACA will positively affect children, with an estimated 5.3 million children expected to receive dental coverage in 2014. This will help to provide children with access to dental care and improve oral health among the nation's youth. However, there is concern that this could have a negative impact among the oral health of adults in the US.
For many parents in the US particularly those who are employees of small companies the implementation of the ACA will mean that they have to choose whether or not their children will continue to receive dental coverage through their company, or whether they will receive coverage through the ACA. According to a representative from National Association of Dental Plans, the concern is this: for parents who do opt to cover their children under the ACA, as many as half of the parents that are currently insured may drop their dental coverage for economic reasons. This could result in 10 to 12 million adults dropping coverage because their children are now covered by the ACA.
Without coverage, it is likely that many of these uninsured adults will stop visiting the dentist altogether. For example, a recent survey in Kentucky found that 49% of the population that lacked dental insurance stopped getting dental care or checkups in the past year because of the costs associated with trips to the dentist.
However, patients should be wary not just of the damage done to their oral health, but also to the costs associated with skipping routine cleanings. Should a tooth have to be removed due to excessive decay, replacement options like dental implants can ultimately carry a hefty price tag for the patient, particularly if multiple teeth need to be replaced. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the ACA's focus on the oral health of children impacts the oral health of adults in the US over the next few years.