Americans have a tendency to avoid the dentist. More than 40% of Americans said they don't see a dentist as often as they would like, according to a 2018 survey by the American Dental Association.
People have lots of reasons for not going, including fear, inconvenience and trouble finding a dentist who take their insurance.
But the top reason Americans cite for avoiding the dentist is cost, with nearly 60% of Americans saying cost was the main reason they haven't visited the dentist in the past 12 months. Cost remained the number one reason regardless of age, income level or type of insurance.
Dental insurance can be confusing since it's considered a separate service from medical insurance, which means it has different policies and procedures that many patients are not familiar with.
From a lack of transparency about benefits to rules like annual maximums — which means plans stop paying for treatment after hitting a certain amount for the year — some patients question whether dental insurance is worth investing in at all.
"There's this misnomer that you need dental insurance to go to the dentist, you really don't," said Dr. Mark Vitale, a general dentist and owner of Edison Dental Arts in Edison, New Jersey. "Dental insurance is not the panacea that most people think it is."
But the industry landscape is shifting as more traditional health insurance companies are supplementing their medical plans with dental benefits.
"Dental insurance is extremely profitable to the insurance companies, which is why many of the major carriers offer dental insurance," Vitale said.
Watch the video above to learn what it actually costs to go to the dentist, whether dental insurance is worth investing in and what patients and policymakers can do about it.