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The Tooth Hurts: Many Coloradans Don't Get Dental Care

About two of three Coloradans saw a dentist or hygienist in the past year. And in some parts of the state, like the San Luis Valley and southeast Colorado, only about half the residents had a dental visit in the past year.
Date last upated: November 20, 2014

About two of three Coloradans, or 65.2 percent, saw a dentist or hygienist in the past year. And in some parts of the state, the percentage is even lower. In the San Luis Valley and southeast Colorado, only about half the residents had a dental visit in the past year.

Visiting the dentist or hygienist is important for maintaining and achieving good oral health. It is one of Colorado’s top 10 Winnable Battles and a factor that’s deeply connected with overall health status. However, this map based on data from the 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) shows that an annual dental appointment is not the norm for many Coloradans.

Lower rates of dental visits may relate to household income, the high cost of dental services, and a lack of dental insurance.

People with a household income above 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) are much more likely to visit a dentist than those with lower incomes. Eight of 10 Coloradans with incomes above 400 percent FPL had a dental visit, compared with roughly five of 10 Coloradans at or below 200 percent FPL. Overall, about 20 percent of Coloradans did not get needed dental care in the past year because of cost. 

A lack of dentists in some counties compounds the problem. CHI reported in 2013 that Colorado has several “dental deserts.” Eight counties did not have a dentist offering care, and in an additional nine counties, Medicaid enrollees had no access to dental care in their home county.

To find out whether your county is in a dental desert, stay tuned for CHI’s upcoming report, Filling the Dental Gap: Caring for Medicaid Clients with Dental Coverage. Until then, brush up on our supply and demand analysis of dental care in Colorado in 2013 with More Dental Insurance: Enough Dental Care?