Primary health care providers’ advice for dental checkups and dentist visits among children: Results from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey 2001-2016

Huabin Luo, Raul I. Garcia, Mark Moss, Ronny Bell, Wanda Wright, Bei Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. In the United States, national survey data from 2011 to 2014 showed that about 24% of children aged 2–5 years have experienced dental caries in their primary teeth, with 11% having untreated caries; 58% of adolescents aged 12–19 years have experienced dental caries in their permanent teeth, with 19% having untreated caries.1 Hispanic and non‐Hispanic black children aged 2–8 years have two times as much untreated caries in their primary teeth as non‐Hispanic white children.2

Untreated dental caries can cause pain and affect children's ability to speak, eat, and learn.3 Children's oral health is a key public health priority.4 To improve children's health, collaboration between medical and dental care professionals is needed.5 In recent years, efforts have been implemented to promote the integration of medicine and dentistry. For example, in 2000, Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General called for individuals, health professionals, and their communities to work together to bridge the long‐standing gap between medical and dental care to reduce disparities6; in 2011, the Institute of Medicine reinforced the call for multidisciplinary health‐care teams working together to improve oral health7; in 2014, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) launched initiatives to introduce core clinical competencies within primary care practices that specifically address oral health8; and, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has included pediatric dental services as one of 10 essential health benefits that must be offered by all small‐group and individual health plans.9 In addition, other professional organizations have also promoted early dental visits.10-12

A few cross‐sectional studies13-17 have reported the provision of preventive dental services and referrals to dental providers by non‐dentist physicians. Yet, the impact of the above‐mentioned policy initiatives and efforts over time on pediatric primary care providers (PCPs) offering dental checkup advice and the effectiveness of such recommendation on having a dental visit has not been assessed recently. Our study aimed to assess whether a recommendation by a PCP was effective in increasing the use of dental services. The findings may inform new strategies to further promote the integration of medicine and dentistry.

The objectives of this study were to assess: (a) the trend of the proportion of children being given dental checkup advice from PCPs by age and by race/ethnicity; (b) the trend of the proportion of children having a dental visit by whether or not they were given dental checkup advice over 2001–2016; and (c) predisposing and enabling factors associated with being given dental checkup advice and having a dental visit.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Public Health Dentistry
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 17 2020

Keywords

  • children
  • dental checkup advice
  • Dental visits
  • trends

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