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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Researcher and Colleagues Study Long-term Outcomes of Preventive Dental Care

Dr. Bisakha Sen, professor in the department of health care organization and policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, recently led an investigation into whether early or regular preventive dental visits (PDV) lessen the likelihood of needing restorative or emergency dental care and reduce costs incurred for dental care in low-income children. Co-investigators in the retrospective cohort study are department colleagues Dr. Justin L. Blackburn, assistant professor; Dr. Meredith L. Kilgore, professor and chair; Dr. Michael A. Morrisey, professor emeritus; and Dr. David J. Becker, associate professor; along with UAB alumna Ms. Cathy Caldwell, director of the Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance in the Alabama Department of Public Health, and Dr. Nir Menachemi, formerly at UAB and currently at Indiana University.

[Photo: Dr. Bisakha Sen]

Using 1998–2012 claims data from the Alabama Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) ALL Kids, pertaining to children enrolled for a minimum of four continuous years, separate analyses were conducted for the age groups 0 to 4 years, 4 to 9 years, and 9 to 19 years. “For 0-4 years, the intervention of interest is whether they have at least one PDV before age 3. For the other two age groups, interventions of interest are if they have regular PDVs during each of the first three years, and if they have claims for a sealant in the first three years. Outcomes — namely restorative and emergency dental service and costs — are measured in the fourth year. To account for selection into PDV, a high-dimensional propensity scores approach is utilized,” notes Dr. Sen.

The researchers concluded that only sealants are linked to a reduced probability of requiring restorative and emergency services and costs. Additional research using other methods to account for selection and confounding is recommended to confirm whether PDVs without sealants are at all effective in reducing the need for these services.

“Preventive Dental Care and Long-Term Dental Outcomes among ALL Kids Enrollees” was published online on February 29 in Health Services Research.

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