Health Policy

Dental Visits by Age One: General Dentist Availability for Privately Insured Children in a Rural State

McKernan, S.C.; Singhal, A.; Momany, E.T.; Kuthy, R.A.
02/2016

Abstract

Purpose: To evaluate the availability of general dentists who treat very young children with private insurance in the context of recommendations for age one dental visit. Methods: Administrative data from Delta Dental of Iowa were analyzed to identify general dentists providing care to children younger than 18 years old in 2005 and 2012. Characteristics of dentists providing care to children younger than two years old were compared, examining changes over time. Geographical distribution of dentists who treated children younger than two years old was examined. Results: The proportion of dentists treating children younger than two years old increased from six percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2012. Younger dentists, females, graduates of The University of Iowa College of Dentistry, and those in metropolitan locations were significantly more likely to treat children younger than two years old. Fifty-one of 99 counties lacked any dentists who had provided care to privately insured children younger than two years old. Conclusions: The proportion of dentists in Iowa treating privately insured children younger than two years old has increased since 2005. However, relatively few general dentists provided care to very young children when compared to previous survey-based figures. Geographic distribution of providers supports the hypothesis that provider availability may pose a barrier to early dental visits.