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Dental insurance plays a significant role in children's use of dental services and their level of unmet dental needs. (Photograph: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Feb 13, 2017 | News Americas

Study shows dental insurance is important driver of dental care

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EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada: Insurance coverage and its potential effect on use of dental services and associated oral health outcomes continue to be a matter of public health policy debate. Evaluating data from U.S. children spanning a period of 18 years, researchers have now reported that dental benefits play a significant role in addressing and lowering unmet dental needs of children. Those who were enrolled in private or public dental care plans were more likely to receive dental care than children who did not have coverage.

In the study, the authors looked into the associations between dental visits and unmet dental needs of U.S. children aged 2–17 on the basis of their insurance type. Data for the study was obtained from the National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, including more than 65,000 participants from 1997 through 2014.

They found that, overall, the number of uninsured children decreased by 58 percent over the period, taken into consideration with a substantial shift from private to public insurance coverage.

Although children who were privately insured had a significantly lower level of unmet needs and higher frequency of dental visits than did children who were publicly insured, the analysis showed that public insurance has lowered the levels of unmet dental needs since 1997, with a decrease of 14.5 percent.

The researchers further found that publicly insured children who had visited the dentist during the past 12 months had lower unmet dental needs. However, this association was not found in children who were privately insured, suggesting that private insurance may not be as effective as public insurance in lowering unmet needs through increased dental visits.

“The shift toward the use of public insurance along with a significant association between unmet needs and dental visits support the effectiveness of publicly funded programs in facilitating the use of dental services in the United States,” concluded lead author Dr. Maryam Sharifzadeh-Amin from the University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and her team.

The study, titled “Associations among dental insurance, dental visits, and unmet needs of US children,” was published in the February issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

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