Health Disparities, Population Health, Immigration and Health
Racial/Ethnic Differences in Dental Insurance and Utilization: Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), 2007-2015
Tracy Acheampong (Other Human Science Undergraduate Student)
Acheampong, Tracy (Georgetown University Human Science), Barrington, Debbie (Georgetown University Human Science)

Background: Low-income individuals disproportionately suffer from disparities in oral health access. Dental services are an essential health benefit for children, providing them with a robust safety net, but dental care access remains limited for non-elderly adults.

Goal: To describe the racial/ethnic differences in dental insurance and utilization.

Objectives: 1. To describe dental services provided by Medicaid for each state. 2. To describe racial differences in dental insurance and utilization. 3. To describe racial differences in dental insurance and utilization for Medicaid recipients.

Approach: We analyzed 2007-2015 data from the nationally representative Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) on approximately 164,000 non-elderly adults aged 18-64 years. Race and ethnicity, health and dental insurance coverage, dental visits, and frequency of dental checkups were self-reported. Chi square tests and associated p-values <0.05 determined statistical significance of racial differences in dental insurance and utilization. Multivariable logistic regression models will be utilized to adjust for socio-demographic factors and describe the independent associations between race/ethnicity and dental insurance and utilization. All statistical analyses were performed in SAS version 9.4.

Results: Descriptive analyses indicate that 64% of Hispanics, 88% of Non-Hispanic Whites, 81% of Non-Hispanic Blacks, and 85% of Non-Hispanic Asians had health insurance (p<0.0001). However, 32% of Hispanics, 53% of Non-Hispanic Whites, 43% of Non-Hispanic Blacks, and 54% of Non-Hispanic Asians had dental insurance (p<0.0001). 25% of Hispanics, 46% of Non-Hispanic Whites, 28% of Non-Hispanic Blacks, and 37% of Non-Hispanic Asians had a dental visit within the previous year (p<0.0001).

Importance to public health: These results indicate that the dental safety net for non-elderly adults needs to be fortified.