Thurs., July 21, 2022

Contact: Katie Reinisch, 303-653-1009,

Adam Fox, 303-563-9108,

New Survey of Coloradans’ Dental Health Shows Unaffordability & Lack of Access – Despite Knowledge & Desire for Good Oral Health

DENVER – Today the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) released a new survey conducted of Coloradans on the topic of oral health, including their knowledge of the need for it, the many barriers preventing them from accessing it, and their personal experiences.

This survey, perhaps the first of its kind in the state, shows that most residents are aware of the importance of good oral health. In fact, 74% said that dental care is “very important” and another  24% said it’s “important.”  That’s right: 98% of respondents know that dental care is important and want to prioritize it.

However, while people understand and feel that oral health is vital, the system creates barriers to care: it is expensive, is hard to access, and can be associated with stigma, judgment, and mistreatment. Despite their desire for it, Coloradans report high rates of poor or below-average dental health, mouth pain, self-consciousness about mouth appearance, and changes to their day-to-day lives caused by their dental health challenges.

Access is a challenge, primarily driven by financial concerns, with 3 out of 4 (73%) saying it’s too expensive. Other top concerns were a lack of dental insurance; language barriers or a lack of child care; difficulty finding a provider; or not being able to get off from work to get the care needed. Fear and anxiety, sometimes stemming from judgmental or negative interactions with providers and staff, also were repeated factors preventing patients from getting care.

In response to a question about their experiences, respondents told CCHI:

  • “Being poor, you get treated differently”
  • “Felt like I was judged for inconsistency seeing dentist. Felt like because I can’t afford dental care, I am treated differently when I do see a provider”
  • “Pain in a tooth with a crown. It is taking 8 days to get an appointment that fits with my schedule so I can avoid missing work”
  • “I grew up with no dental care so as an adult my teeth are really bad. They assume because I am brown that I am a drug addict”
  • “I stopped going because they didn’t listen to me and they gave me partials (dentures) that hurt”
  • “Being on Medicaid growing up I was definitely treated sometimes like I was less than others because of my family’s income status”
  • “All parts of dental care are expensive”

Fully half of those surveyed felt that the time between scheduling and actually seeing a provider was too long; that’s not surprising given that the average reported length of wait time for a routine cleaning appointment was two or more months, and 37% waited four or more months. CCHI is concerned that nearly 1 in 2 (47%) of patients needing immediate care reported that they had to wait over a month for care.

 “Policy makers and advocates need to make oral health a priority to improve health, well-being, and equity for all Coloradans,” said Adam Fox, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “These results underscore oral health is clearly a priority for Coloradans, but they are encountering too many barriers, and that needs to change. There are shameful gaps not just in access and affordability, which are extensive, but a sizable number of consumers also report fear, judgment, and mistreatment by oral health providers in past visits as additional barriers.”

A diverse group of 422 Coloradans between the ages of 18 and 86 was surveyed in February and March of 2022, including people who submitted responses in English and Spanish with a variety of income and education levels, and a racial makeup representative of Colorado.

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, membership-based group advocating for equitable access to high-quality, affordable health care. CCHI ​​serves Coloradans whose access to health care and financial security are compromised by structural barriers, affordability, poor benefits, or unfair business practices of the health care industry.


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