• dental procedures;
  • healthcare disparities;
  • race;
  • dental insurance;
  • dental care utilization;
  • children;
  • adolescents


Objectives: Most studies on the provision of dental procedures have focused on Medicaid enrollees known to have inadequate access to dental care. Little information on private insurance enrollees exists. This study documents the rates of preventive, restorative, endodontic, and surgical dental procedures provided to children enrolled in Delta Dental of Wisconsin (DDWI) in Milwaukee.

Methods: We analyzed DDWI claims data for Milwaukee children aged 0-18 years between 2002 and 2008. We linked the ZIP codes of enrollees to the 2000 US Census information to derive racial/ethnic estimates in the different ZIP codes. We estimated the rates of preventive, restorative, endodontic, and surgical procedures provided to children in different racial/ethnic groups based on the population estimates derived from the US Census data. Descriptive and multivariable analysis was done using Poisson regression modeling on dental procedures per year.

Results: In 7 years, a total of 266,380 enrollees were covered in 46 ZIP codes in the database. Approximately, 64 percent, 44 percent, and 49 percent of White, African American, and Hispanic children had at least one dental visit during the study period, respectively. The rates of preventive procedures increased up to the age of 9 years and decreased thereafter among children in all three racial groups included in the analysis. African American and Hispanic children received half as many preventive procedures as White children.

Conclusion: Our study shows that substantial racial disparities may exist in the types of dental procedures that were received by children.