Background: While many studies have provided data on Americans' access to dental care, few have provided a detailed understanding of what specific treatments patients receive. This article provides detailed information about the types of dental services that Americans receive and the types of providers who render them.
Methods: The authors provide national estimates for the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population in several socioeconomic and demographic categories regarding dental visits, procedures performed and the types of providers who performed them, using household data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, or MEPS.
Results: Data show that while the combination of diagnostic and preventive services adds up to 65 percent of all dental procedures, the combination of periodontal and endodontic procedures represents only 3 percent. Additionally, while 81 percent of all dental visits were reported as visits to general dentists, approximately 7 percent and 5 percent of respondents who had had a dental visit reported having visited orthodontists or oral surgeons, respectively.
Conclusion: MEPS data show the magnitude and nature of dental visits in aggregate and for each of several demographic and socioeconomic categories. This information establishes a nationally representative baseline for the U.S. population in terms of rates of utilization, number and types of procedures and variations in types of providers performing the procedures. These nationally representative estimates include data elements that describe specific dental visits, dental procedures and type of provider, and they offer details that are useful, important and not found elsewhere.
Practice implications: By understanding these analyses, U.S. dentists will be better positioned to provide care and better meet the dental care needs of all Americans.