Purpose: To examine adolescents' use of preventive medical and dental services and its relationship to demographic characteristics and other variables reflecting access to and need for care.
Methods: Self- and parent-reported data from a sample of 5644 adolescents aged 11 to 21 years from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Variables studied include the influence of both the adolescents' demographic and socioeconomic characteristics (age, race/ethnicity, place of birth, acculturation, insurance status, and perception of health), as well as those of their parents (race/ethnicity, income, level of education, place of birth) on their lifetime use and use within the past year of medical and dental services. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses were conducted using SAS and SUDAAN.
Results: Approximately 32% of respondents had not had a physical examination in the year before the survey, and the same percentage had not had a dental examination. Approximately 2% reported never having had either a physical or a dental examination. Logistic regression reveals that lack of insurance, low family income, and low parental education level are significantly associated with the lack of preventive medical care. Lack of an annual dental visit was associated with male gender; black, Hispanic, or mixed race/ethnicity; and lack of insurance. Never having had a dental visit was the only dependent variable found to be associated with place of birth.
Conclusions: Health insurance and family income are most consistently related to adolescents' use of preventive medical and dental care. However, the relationship between lack of dental care and place of birth emphasizes the need to improve access to dental services for immigrant teens. These findings are particularly relevant as states design systems of care for adolescents under the State Children's Health Insurance Program.