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Ambul Pediatr. 2008 Sep-Oct;8(5):312-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ambp.2008.04.005. Epub 2008 Jun 2.

Parental perceptions of dental/oral health among children with and without special health care needs.

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  • 1US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Rockville, Maryland 20857, USA.



The aims of this study were to determine the prevalence of parent-reported preventive dental care and better dental health in children with special health care needs (CSHCN) and to identify parent-reported dental problems, reasons for lack of preventive dental care, and factors associated with receiving preventive care and having better perceived dental health in CSHCN. A comparison group of children without special needs (CWOSN) was included.


We analyzed the 2003 National Survey of Children's Health by using a sample of 17,001 CSHCN and a comparison group of CWOSN. Descriptive and between-group chi-square statistics were used to analyze child characteristics, parent-perceived dental problems, and reasons for lack of preventive dental care. Factors associated with receipt of preventive dental care and better reported dental health were examined using logistic regression.


Approximately 80% of CSHCN and 72% of CWOSN received preventive dental care. CSHCN parents reported more dental problems and fewer described their children as having good to excellent dental health compared to CWOSN, despite greater odds of having dental coverage and receiving preventive dental care. Disparities were evident in preventive dental care and dental health based on income, education, and insurance coverage.


Most parents of CSHCN and CWOSN report that their children receive preventive dental care and have good to excellent dental health; however, disparities in dental health and receipt of preventive dental care exist. Accessing care coordination by using the medical/dental home model, particularly for CSHCN, may alleviate the situation in which some of the most vulnerable children are experiencing the worst dental health.

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