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J Public Health Dent. 2017 Dec;77(1):54-62. doi: 10.1111/jphd.12171. Epub 2016 Sep 10.

The effect of health and dental insurance on US children's dental care utilization for urgent and non-urgent dental problems - 2008.

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Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.



We examined the association between utilization of care for a dental problem (utilization-DP) and parent-reported dental problem (DP) urgency among children with DP by type of health care insurance coverage.


We used weighted 2008 National Health Interview Survey data from 2,834 children, aged 2-17 years with at least one DP within the 6 months preceding survey. Explanatory variables were selected based on Andersen's model of healthcare utilization. Need was considered urgent if DP included toothache, bleeding gums, broken or missing teeth, broken or missing filling, or decayed teeth and otherwise as non-urgent. The primary enabling variable, insurance, had four categories: none, private health no dental coverage (PHND), private health and dental (PHD), or Medicaid/State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Predisposing variables included sociodemographic characteristics. We used bivariate and multivariate analyses to identify explanatory variables' association with utilization-DP. Using logistic regression, we obtained adjusted estimates of utilization-DP by urgency for each insurance category.


In bivariate analyses, utilization-DP was associated with both insurance and urgency. In multivariate analyses, the difference in percent utilizing care for an urgent versus non-urgent DP among children covered by Medicaid/SCHIP was 32 percentage points; PHD, 25 percentage points; PHND, 12 percentage points; and no insurance, 14 percentage points. The difference in utilization by DP urgency was higher for children with Medicaid/SCHIP compared with either PHND or uninsured children.


Expansion of Medicaid/SCHIP may permit children to receive care for urgent DPs who otherwise may not, due to lack of dental insurance.


Medicaid/SCHIP; dental care for children; dental health services; dental insurance; dental problem; health insurance; utilization

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