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Keywords:

  • Dental care utilization;
  • decomposition;
  • oral health;
  • dental benefits

Objective

To decompose the change in pediatric and adult dental care utilization over the last decade.

Data

2001 through 2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Study Design

The Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition was used to explain the change in dental care utilization among adults and children. Changes in dental care utilization were attributed to changes in explained covariates and changes due to movements in estimated coefficients. Controlling for demographics, overall health status, and dental benefits variables, we estimated year-specific logistic regression models. Outputs from these models were used to compute the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition.

Principal Findings

Dental care utilization decreased from 40.5 percent in 2001 to 37.0 percent in 2010 for adults and increased from 43.2 percent in 2001 to 46.3 percent in 2010 for children (p < .05). Among adults, changes in insurance status, race, and income contributed to a decline in adult dental care utilization (−0.018, p < .01). Among children, changes in controlled factors did not substantially change dental care utilization, which instead may be explained by changes in policy, oral health status, or preferences.

Conclusions

Dental care utilization for adults has declined, especially among the poor and uninsured. Without further policy intervention, disadvantaged adults face increasing barriers to dental care.