Characteristics of US Adults Delaying Dental Care Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Published in: JDR Clinical & Translational Research, Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 8–14 (January 2021). doi: 10.1177/2380084420962778

Posted on RAND.org on February 12, 2021

by Ashley M. Kranz, Grace Gahlon, Andrew W. Dick, Bradley D. Stein

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Background

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has disrupted the delivery of health care services, including dental care. The objective of this study was to quantify and describe US adults who delayed dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods

We analyzed cross-sectional responses collected from a nationally representative and long-running panel survey of US adults conducted in late May and early June 2020 (response rate = 70%). The survey included questions about dental care delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, purpose of the delayed dental visits, timing of future dental visits, and demographic information. Pearson's chi-square tests were used to determine if rates of delayed dental care varied by subgroup. A multivariable regression model, adjusted for age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, census division, and rurality, was estimated to predict the odds of reporting delayed dental care.

Results

Nearly half of respondents (46.7%) reported delaying going to the dentist or receiving dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among adults who reported delaying dental care due to the pandemic, 74.7% reported delaying a checkup, 12.4% reported delaying care to address something that was bothering them, and 10.5% reported delaying care to get planned treatment. About 44.4% of adults reported that they planned to visit the dentist within the next 3 mo. In the multivariable regression model, only living in an urban (vs. rural) area was associated with significantly higher odds of delayed dental care due to the pandemic (odds ratio: 1.5; 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 2.1).

Conclusions

Nearly half of US adults reported delaying dental care due to the COVID-19 pandemic during the spring of 2020. Our results offer insight into the experiences of patients seeking dental care this spring and the economic challenges faced by dental providers due to the pandemic.

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