INTRODUCTION: We compared access to preventive dental care among low-income children eligible for public dental insurance to access among children with private dental insurance and/or high family income (>400% of the federal poverty level) in Georgia, and the effect of policies toward increasing access to dental care for low-income children.
METHODS: We used multiple sources of data (eg, US Census, Georgia Board of Dentistry) to estimate, by census tract, measures of preventive dental care access in 2015 for children aged 0 to 18 years. Measures were percentage of met need, 1-way travel distance to a dentist, and scarcity of dentists. We used an optimization model to estimate access, quantify disparities, and evaluate policies.
RESULTS: About 1.5 million children were eligible for public insurance; 600,000 had private insurance and/or high family income. Across census tracts, average met need was 59% for low-income children and 96% for high-income children; for rural census tracts, these values were 33% and 84%, respectively. The average 1-way travel distance for all census tracts was 3.7 miles for high-income and/or privately insured children and 17.2 miles for low-income children; for rural census tracts, these values were 11.6 and 32.9 miles, respectively. Increasing dentists' acceptance of public insurance-eligible children increased met need more in rural areas than in urban areas. To achieve 100% met need in rural tracts, however, an 80% participation rate among dentists would be required.
CONCLUSION: Across census tracts, high-income children had better access to preventive dental care than low-income children had. Identifying tracts with disparities in access could result in more efficient allocation of public health dental resources.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health