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J Adolesc Health. 2013 Nov;53(5):663-70. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.05.013. Epub 2013 Jul 11.

Predictors of dental care use: findings from the national longitudinal study of adolescent health.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Services, School of Dentistry, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Electronic address:



To examine longitudinal trends and associated factors in dental service utilization by adolescents progressing to early adulthood in the United States.


The data source was the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health from Waves I (1994-1995), II (1996), III (2001-2002), and IV (2007-2008). This was a retrospective, observational study of adolescents' transition to early adulthood. We obtained descriptive statistics and performed logistic regression analyses to identify the effects of baseline and concurrent covariates on dental service utilization from adolescence to early adulthood over time.


Dental service utilization within the prior 12 months peaked at age 16 (72%), gradually decreased until age 21 (57%), and remained flat thereafter. Whites and Asians had a 10-20 percentage points higher proportion of dental service utilization at most ages compared with Blacks and Hispanics. Dental service utilization at later follow-up visits was strongly associated with baseline utilization, with odds ratio = 10.7, 2.4, and 1.5 at the 1-, 7-, and 13-year follow-ups, respectively. These effects decreased when they were adjusted for current income, insurance, and education. Compared with Whites, Blacks were consistently less likely to report a dental examination.


Dental service utilization was highest in adolescence. Gender, education, health insurance, and income in young adulthood were significant predictors in reporting a dental examination. Blacks had lower odds of reporting a dental examination, either as adolescents or as young adults.

Copyright © 2013 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Adolescents; Adulthood; Dental service utilization; Racial/ethnic minority

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