Arizona offers a comprehensive Medicaid dental care benefit, including assignment to a dental home, for children under 21 whose family income falls below a certain threshold. However, the state continues to lag behind the nation when it comes to children’s oral health ― more than half (52%) of Arizona’s kindergarteners have tooth decay compared to 36% nationally.
A new joint study by CareQuest Institute, Arizona Oral Health Coalition, and Children’s Action Alliance examined patterns of use of medical and dental services in Arizona children enrolled in Medicaid. The study found that despite recommendations that children see a dentist by their first birthday, less than 1% of Medicaid-enrolled children had a dental claim before the age of 1. Further, only about one in four children aged 1–3 years had a dental claim. Other findings include:
- Most Medicaid-enrolled children had at least one health care claim during the study period, but there were differences by age, race, and ethnicity in the use of health services.
- The youngest age group (0–3 years) had the greatest percentage of major restorative dental care of all the age groups.
- American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) children were least likely to have a claim (48.4%), and traveled the longest distances of children in any racial group to receive health care.
The authors write that “Arizona struggles with recruiting and sustaining dentists, particularly in rural and low-income areas,” with four counties lacking a pediatric dentist enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program.
You may also be interested in:
- Webinar: Advancing Health Equity Through Dental Therapy, join the American Public Health Association Oral Health Section and CareQuest Institute on July 28 for a robust conversation about the benefits and concerns of expanding dental therapy, which is currently permitted in 14 states and several Tribal nations.
- Age of First Oral Health Examination and Dental Treatment Needs of Medicaid-Enrolled Children, an article in JDR Clinical & Translational Research underscoring the importance of a child’s first dental visit before their first birthday to prevent early childhood tooth decay.
- Spotlight on Arizona: Adult Use of Emergency Departments (ED) for Non-Traumatic Dental Conditions (NTDCs), a report examining who visits the ED for NTDCs in Arizona and the resulting costs of care.