NEW YORK, N.Y., August 17, 2020 – Since the onset of COVID-19, the use of teledentistry, digital communications and online self-service tools has increased among dentists to provide dental care to their patients. However, in a new dental survey from The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian Life) on the pandemic’s impact on oral health, roughly 40% of adults say they or their child experienced a dental issue that would have otherwise prompted a dental visit.
The latest findings, from Guardian’s Workplace Benefits Study titled “Dental Benefits 2020,” also revealed that regarding safety, nearly three in ten say they are more anxious about visiting the dentist since the coronavirus outbreak. However, 3 in 4 adults will be comfortable going to the dentist by year-end 2020.
“In recognition of the challenging circumstances posed by COVID, and in order to continue to promote the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene, we have modified our policy to be more flexible in covering dental cleanings,” said Dr. Randi Tillman, Chief Dental Officer, Guardian Life. “It is no longer necessary for patients to wait a full 6 months before having the second cleaning of the year. We are also proud to announce that to support our dental provider community, and the demands for increased infection control, we will be offering a PPE relief program for dentists.”
Office Closures and Teledentistry Use
With telehealth being on the rise during the pandemic, the study found 1 out of 5 adults used teledentistry for themselves or a child during the pandemic with many having a favorable experience. However, most adults are unaware if their provider offers teledentistry services or how they would access such services during the pandemic. In addition, many are uncertain whether teledentistry is covered by their dental plan.
Nonetheless, more than one-third of all adults would be open to trying teledentistry, and even favor this option over traditional in-person visits for certain conditions and situations. Parents are more likely to use teledentistry for a child than for themselves - both during and after the pandemic - while millennials also favored using it.
Maintaining Oral Health During Covid-19
The American Dental Association (ADA) currently recommends dental visits at least once every six months, however, even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, less than half of all adults (45%) reported receiving semi-annual exams, with only seven in 10 seeing the dentist at least once a year. Fortunately, of the one out of five adults who said they changed their oral health habits during the pandemic – it was for the positive. Many reported increased flossing, brushing more frequently and thoroughly, as well as eating a healthier diet, such as consuming less sweets.
Office Safety Measures Important to Patients
Given the restricted access to preventive care during the first six months of 2020, many patients are anxious to schedule exams and cleanings in the second half of 2020. At the same time, many patients said they anticipate returning to the dentist as soon as September. Universally among respondents, increased safety precautions are desired to reduce anxiety for in-person visits.
“Our findings validate that more than 1 in 3 patients say communicating an office’s safety measures is important to them,” said Stu Shaw, Vice President, Dental Leader, Guardian Life. “Not surprisingly, adults ranked dentists and staff wearing personal protective equipment as the top factor that would help them feel comfortable and safe.”
As dental offices re-opened across the country, dentists had to implement new office safety measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, thus incurring more expenses. To help offset these additional expenses for protective equipment and reduce the need to place additional charges on patients, Guardian recently announced it will provide relief on these costs for network dentists. Details about the new program which providers must enroll in by September 15th can be found here.
To learn more about Guardian Dental Benefits or download the latest report, click here.
The report is based on two online surveys: Impact of Covid-19 on Oral Health online survey (May 2020) with 1,000 respondents, and Dental Benefits Consumer Trends (January 2020) with 1,200 adults age 24 and older. Margin of error is +/- 2.7% at 95% confidence level.
Every day, Guardian provides Americans the security they deserve through our insurance and wealth management products and services. Since our founding in 1860, our long-term view has helped our customers prepare for whatever life brings whether starting a family, planning for the future or taking care of employees. Today, we're a Fortune 250 mutual company and a leading provider of life, disability, dental, and other benefits for individuals, at the workplace and through government sponsored programs. The Guardian community of over 9,000 employees and our network of over 2,500 financial representatives is committed to serving with expertise when, where and how our clients need us. Our commitments rest on a strong financial foundation, which at year-end 2019 included $9.3 billion in capital and $1.7 billion in operating income. For more information, please visit guardianlife.com or follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
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