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J Public Health Dent. 2008 Summer;68(3):149-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-7325.2007.00079.x.

Racial/ethnic disparities in the acceptance of Medicaid patients in dental practices.

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Department of Clinical Services Room 356, Marquette University School of Dentistry, P.O. Box 1881 Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881, USA.



Medicaid enrollees disproportionately experience dental disease and difficulties accessing needed dental care. However, little has been documented on the factors associated with the acceptance of new Medicaid patients by dentists, and particularly whether minority dentists are more likely to accept new Medicaid patients. We therefore examined the factors associated with the acceptance of new Medicaid patients by dentists.


We analyzed 2001 data from the Wisconsin Dentist Workforce Survey administered by the Wisconsin Division of Health Care Financing, Bureau of Health Information. We used descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis to examine the factors associated with the outcome variable.


Ninety-four percent of Wisconsin licensed dentists (n = 4,301) responded to the 2001 survey. A significantly higher likelihood of accepting new Medicaid patients was found for racial/ethnic minority dentists (35 versus 19 percent of White dentists) and dentists practicing in large practices (31 versus 16 percent for those in smaller practices). In the multivariable analysis, minority dentists [odds ratio (OR) = 2.06, 95 percent confidence interval (CI) = 1.30, 3.25] and dentists in practices with >3 dentists (OR= 2.25, 95 percent CI = 1.69, 3.00) had significantly greater odds of accepting new Medicaid patients.


Racial/ethnic minority dentists are twice as likely as White dentists to accept new Medicaid patients. Dentists in larger practices also are significantly more likely than those in smaller practices to accept new Medicaid patients. These findings suggest that increasing dental workforce diversity to match the diversity of the general US population can potentially improve access to dental care for poor and minority Americans, and may serve as an important force in reducing disparities in dental care.

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