Dental benefits play a significant role in meeting the dental needs of children, including checkups and treatment, report researchers at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. According to their study, US children enrolled in private or public dental care plans were more likely to receive dental care than children who did not have coverage from 1997 to 2014.
The researchers examined data from more than 65,000 participants collected by the National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the US Census Bureau. Based on the data, the unmet dental needs of children enrolled in a dental care plan, private or public, steadily decreased from 2009 to 2014.
Furthermore, the number of uninsured children decreased by 58% from 1997 to 2014 with a significant shift from private to public insurance coverage. This shift, the researchers noted, along with a significant association between unmet needs and dental visits demonstrate the effectiveness of publicly funded programs in facilitating the use of dental services.
Regular visits to the dentist and adequate access to dental care enable families to meet their dental needs. Barriers to receiving care include socioeconomic status, beliefs about dental care, and accessibility of providers. Enabling factors include level of education, household income, and dental insurance.
The researchers concluded that if an imbalance exists between barriers and enabling factors, a patient may have a higher chance of having unmet needs because of cost, which leads to delayed diagnosis of issues, more complex treatment, and ultimately an increased burden on public health systems.
The study, “Associations Among Dental Insurance, Dental Visits, and Unmet Needs of US Children,” was published by the Journal of the American Dental Association.