The impact of dental benefits on the utilization of dental services by low-income children in western Pennsylvania

Pediatr Dent. May-Jun 2002;24(3):234-40.


Purpose: This study examines the impact of dental coverage provided through a health insurance program for low-income children on the use of dental services in Western Pennsylvania.

Methods: A before-after design with a control group was used. Telephone interviews were conducted with the families of newly enrolled children at the time of enrollment, at 6 months and at 12 months after enrollment. Both structured and open-ended questions were asked about the use of health care services, unmet need/delayed care and causes and consequences of unmet need/delayed care. A second group of families were interviewed 12 months after the study group was initially interviewed to form a comparison sample. The study population consisted of 750 children who were continuously enrolled in the program for 12 months and 460 comparison children.

Results: After enrollment, the proportion of children with a regular source of dental care increased 42%, while the proportion of those who had a preventive dental visit increased 50%. The proportion of children reporting unmet need/delayed care for dental services fell from 43% to 10%. The program had a larger impact on the use of dental services than on the use of medical services.

Conclusions: The extension of dental benefits to SCHIP-eligible children in Western Pennsylvania had a positive impact on children by increasing their access to dental care and to preventive dental services.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Research / methods
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Dental / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Malocclusion / epidemiology
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • State Health Plans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States