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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

SDSU: Study – Offering Public Dental Benefits and Effects on Child Dental Care Utilization

Dr. Brandy Lipton, an assistant professor at San Diego State University School of Public Health, recently published a working paper evaluating how parental Medicaid benefits affect income-based disparities in child access to health care, focusing on use of dental care. Since low-income children are less likely to receive recommended dental care and also have worse oral health outcomes than their higher income counterparts, Dr. Lipton was interested in evaluating mechanisms for increasing receipt of recommended care among this group. Many low-income children have access to comprehensive dental benefits through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, but may face other barriers to accessing care.

Findings suggest that providing public dental benefits to low-income parents is associated with an 11 percent increase in the likelihood that a child had a recent dental visit. These results indicate that if adult dental benefits were offered through Medicaid in states that currently do not provide these benefits, disparities in dental visit rates for the lowest compared to the highest income children could be reduced by up to 20 percent. Currently, many states do not offer basic preventive dental care for publicly insured adults. Dr. Lipton’s work suggests that the benefit of providing adult dental coverage may be larger than anticipated, as there may be downstream effects on children’s receipt of recommended care. These findings may help build the case for states to provide dental benefits to adults enrolled in Medicaid. This work received funding from the William T. Grant Foundation.