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  • Publication # 13-RA012

Having dental coverage boosts the use of preventive and restorative dental services

Health Care Costs and Financing

Despite the availability of dental services in the United States, less than half of the population goes to the dentist each year. Dental coverage is a major incentive for persons to seek out preventive and restorative dental care, concludes a new study. 

AHRQ researchers Samuel H. Zuvekas, Ph.D., and Richard Manski, D.D.S., M.B.A., Ph.D., analyzed data from the AHRQ’s 2001–2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and additional price data from the American Dental Association. They determined three measures of out-of-pocket prices: the average cost for preventive care visits during the year, the total spending incurred during the first episode of basic treatment, and the total spending incurred during the first episode of major treatment.

Image of Dentist with patient Race and ethnicity, gender, childhood, and education were strong predictors of using dental care services. For example, minorities were significantly less likely to have dental visits compared to whites. Blacks were 15 percentage points less likely to have preventive care visits than whites. Individuals with dental coverage had 19 percent greater use of preventive dental services. Restorative services also increased 11 to 16 percent with insurance coverage. Enrollment in a health maintenance organization increased the use of restorative services, but not preventive services. The reverse effect was found for those enrolled in private health insurance.

More details are in "The demand for preventive and restorative dental services," by Dr. Zuvekas, Dr. Manski, and Chad D. Meyerhoefer, Ph.D., in the January 2013 Health Economics [Epub ahead of print]. 

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 13-R033) are available from AHRQ.


Page last reviewed September 2013
Internet Citation: Having dental coverage boosts the use of preventive and restorative dental services: Health Care Costs and Financing. September 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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