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THE DEMAND FOR PREVENTIVE AND RESTORATIVE DENTAL SERVICES

Authors

  • Chad D. Meyerhoefer,

    1. Department of Economics, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, USA
    2. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, USA
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  • Samuel H. Zuvekas,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, USA
    • Correspondence to: Center for Financing, Access and Cost Trends, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850, USA PH: 301-427-1673. E-mail: samuel.zuvekas@ahrq.hhs.gov

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  • Richard Manski

    1. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, University of Maryland School of Dentistry, Baltimore, USA
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ABSTRACT

Chronic tooth decay is the most common chronic condition in the United States among children ages 5–17 and also affects a large percentage of adults. Oral health conditions are preventable, but less than half of the US population uses dental services annually. We seek to examine the extent to which limited dental coverage and high out-of-pocket costs reduce dental service use by the nonelderly privately insured and uninsured. Using data from the 2001–2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and an American Dental Association survey of dental procedure prices, we jointly estimate the probability of using preventive and both basic and major restorative services through a correlated random effects specification that controls for endogeneity. We found that dental coverage increased the probability of preventive care use by 19% and the use of restorative services 11% to 16%. Both conditional and unconditional on dental coverage, the use of dental services was not sensitive to out-of-pocket costs. We conclude that dental coverage is an important determinant of preventive dental service use, but other nonprice factors related to consumer preferences, especially education, are equal if not stronger determinants. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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