Objectives: This study aimed to gain insight into the experiences, attitudes, and perceptions of a racially and ethnically diverse group of caregivers regarding barriers to dental care for their Medicaid-insured children.
Methods: Criterion-purposive sampling was used to select participants for 11 focus groups, which were conducted in North Carolina. Seventy-seven caregivers of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds participated. Full recordings of sessions were obtained and transcribed. A comprehensive content review of all data, including line-by-line analysis, was conducted.
Results: Negative experiences with the dental care system discouraged many caregivers in the focus groups from obtaining dental services for their Medicaid-insured children. Searching for providers, arranging an appointment where choices were severely limited, and finding transportation left caregivers describing themselves as discouraged and exhausted. Caregivers who successfully negotiated these barriers felt that they encountered additional barriers in the dental care setting, including long waiting times and judgmental, disrespectful, and discriminatory behavior from staff and providers because of their race and public assistance status.
Conclusions: Current proposals to solve the dental access problem probably will be insufficient until barriers identified by caregivers are addressed.