Health and human services officials expect to see more people in the dental field, including those in dentures, as they seek to expand the number of providers for the nation’s 5.8 million dentists.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in an interview Wednesday with the New York Times, said the department is continuing to evaluate dental trends and is considering whether it would be appropriate to increase the number and range of dental practices.
The department is also evaluating dental care trends across the United States, Sebelios office said.
While the health and human service agency has yet to make a determination on the best path forward for dental care, Sebellias remarks mark the first time in nearly a decade that the agency has publicly acknowledged a potential increase in the number or range of options.
Sebelius said the dental profession faces challenges from changing consumer preferences and a need to provide greater dental care.
She noted that more than 10 million people were insured through Medicare last year, a record.
She said that more people are choosing to pay for dental insurance and that the number is growing.
Sebellias comments came a day after a study by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that the dental workforce is shrinking and that more Americans are going to the dentist rather than getting dental treatment.
The ADA study found that in 2020, just over 12 percent of the adult population had health insurance, up from 9.5 percent in 2020.
In 2020, nearly 2.4 million adults had dental insurance, the study found.
The report also found that dentists are seeing more people seeking care, as more Americans have become accustomed to getting their teeth cleaned.
The decline in the demand for dental services is evident across the country, with the percentage of adults with health insurance falling to 37.5 from 43.2 percent in 2019.
The number of dentists in the U.S. is up by more than 1 million from the year before, the ADA said.
In the last year alone, the number has been climbing at a slower pace, reaching 15.5 million in 2019, up by 3.3 percent.
The ACA found that people who have health insurance are more likely to have access to primary care care and primary care is more effective than general dental care when it comes to preventing dental caries, according to the report.
In addition to dentistry, the dental care workforce has also seen a decline in patients seeking treatment in primary care.
In 2019, there were 7.7 million adults with insurance, a 10.3% decline from the previous year, according the ADA.
The ADA reported that there are now 1.3 million primary care visits for people with insurance.