Health Policy

The impact of WIC dental screenings and referrals on utilization of dental services among low-income children.

McCunniff, M.D.; Damiano, P.C.; Kanellis, M.J.; Levy, S.M.
1998 May-Jun


PURPOSE: This cross-sectional study examined whether referrals from nondental health professionals impacted utilization of dental services by low-income populations.

METHODS: A sample of 309 mothers enrolled in the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) clinic in Jackson County, Missouri, completed a self-administered, 32-item questionnaire to assess the mother and child's oral health behavior and past use of dental services. Dental utilization, the primary dependent variable, was defined as whether or not the child had ever been to a dentist.

RESULTS: Findings showed 27% of the children in the sample had been referred for dental care. Bivariate analysis indicated that a dental referral, age of the child, age of the mother, mother's perceived dental need for the child, household size, number of children in the household, and dental insurance for the child were associated with a child having a dental visit. Logistic regression, however, indicated that only age was significantly related to utilization.

CONCLUSION: The results showed a strong effect of increasing age being related to dental utilization, while additional research is needed to clarify the importance of WIC referrals.