Dental insurance, dental care utilization, and perceived unmet dental needs in women living with HIV: Results from the Women's Interagency HIV Study

J Public Health Dent. 2019 Dec;79(4):343-351. doi: 10.1111/jphd.12336. Epub 2019 Aug 16.


Objectives: Dental care is the most commonly cited unmet health-care service due to cost. Previous research has highlighted the unmet dental needs of people living with HIV (PLWH). Understanding associations among dental insurance availability, dental care utilization, and the presence of unmet dental needs among PLWH is a public health priority.

Methods: Oral health surveys were collected cross-sectionally (April-October 2016) among 1,442 women living with HIV (WLWH) in the Women's Interagency HIV Study. Logistic regression models were used to analyze the association between having versus not having dental insurance by type (Ryan White, private, Medicaid/Medicare) and two primary outcomes: a) typical frequency of dental visits (at least annually, less than annually) and b) reporting an unmet dental need in the past 6 months.

Results: All dental insurance types were associated with higher odds of receiving annual dental care and, for those with either Medicare/Medicaid or private insurance, lower odds of having an unmet dental need. When WLWH were asked to describe their oral health, poor self-reported condition was associated with both an unmet dental need (odds ratio [OR]: 4.52, 95 percent Confidence Interval [CI] [3.29-6.20]) and lower odds of annual dental care utilization (OR: 0.44, 95 percent CI [0.34-0.57]). Self-reported depressive symptom burden was also linked to having an unmet dental need (OR: 2.10, 95 percent CI [1.46-3.01]).

Conclusions: Dental insurance coverage increases dental care utilization and is associated with better oral health among WLWH. In the era of health-care reform, dental insurance coverage may be instrumental for enhancing treatment outcomes.

Keywords: HIV; access to dental care; dental insurance; oral health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dental Care
  • Female
  • HIV Infections*
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Insurance, Dental*
  • Insurance, Health
  • Medicaid
  • Medicare
  • United States