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Low-Income Children Not Getting Adequate Dental Care
Date:7/8/2010

ver gone to a dentist or had visits longer than six months apart. Even among children covered by Medicaid, Latino and black children were significantly less likely than white children to have had a dental visit in the past six months.

One of the main reasons for the disparity in care between publicly and privately insured kids may be because not enough dentists accept Medicaid, said Pourat, who is also associate professor of health services at the UCLA School of Public Health. "Unlike the medical field, where many providers such as community clinics are available to see Medicaid patients, the dental care field is dominated by privately practicing dentists," she said.

The small number of participating dentists contributes to racial and ethnic disparities in care, the authors said, as do the disproportionately few Latino and black dentists in California.

Pourat said another contributing factor may be that parents don't always recognize the importance of early, regular dental visits, "or may find it difficult to take time off work to seek dental care that may not seem urgent."

The authors say more strategic efforts are needed to reduce disparities in access to dental care among publicly insured children, including boosting Medicaid reimbursement for dental care, expanding training for pediatric care among general dentists, and training dental students in the community.

Dentist Gary Rozier, a professor of health policy and management at the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health, and director of the school's Dental Public Health Program, said the findings also reinforce the benefit of training pediatricians to screen and treat very young children at risk for dental problems.

"Currently, about 37 states are reimbursing physicians to provide preventive dental services, including application of fluoride varnish, which has shown to be effective in reducing the incidence of dental caries," said Rozier. "In
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