ObjectiveNearly all state Medicaid programs reimburse nondental primary care providers (PCPs) for providing preventive oral health services to young children; yet, little is known about how treatment outcomes compare with children visiting dentists. This study compared the association between the provider of preventive services (PCP, dentist, or both) with Medicaid-enrolled children before their third birthday and subsequent dental caries-related treatment (CRT) and CRT payment.
MethodsWe conducted a retrospective study of young children enrolled in North Carolina Medicaid during 2000 to 2006. The annual number of CRT and CRT payments per child between the ages of 3 and 5 yr were estimated with a zero-inflated negative binomial regression and a hurdle model, respectively. Models were adjusted for relevant child- and county-level characteristics and used propensity score weighting to address observed confounding.
ResultsWe examined 41,453 children with > 1 preventive oral health visit from a PCP, dentist, or both before their third birthday. Unadjusted annual mean CRT and payments were lowest among children who had only PCP visits (CRT = 0.87, payment = $172) and higher among children with only dentist visits (CRT = 1.48, payment = $234) and both PCP and dentist visits (CRT = 1.52, payment = $273). Adjusted results indicated that children who had dentist visits (with or without PCP visits) had significantly more CRT and higher CRT payments per year during the ages of 3 and 4 yr than children who had only PCP visits. However, these differences attenuated each year after age 3 yr.
ConclusionsBecause of children's increased opportunity to receive multiple visits in medical offices during well-child visits, preventive oral health services provided by PCPs may lead to a greater reduction in CRT than dentist visits alone. This study supports guidelines and reimbursement policies that allow preventive dental visits based on individual needs.