Study: Disparities in Child Access to Emergency Dental Care


A new study, published today in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, indicates that dentists were less willing to see kids who needed an emergency appointment if they were covered by Medicaid than if the children were privately insured.

In the study, six women pretended to be the mother of a 10-year-old boy who had just broken his front tooth and required urgent care. The women made two calls to 85 different dental practices in Cook County, Ill. The only difference between the calls was that one time, the women told dental officials the child was covered by Medicaid, and in the other call, they said the family had private Blue Cross insurance. In total, dentist offices told almost two-thirds of mothers with Medicaid that their son couldn't get an appointment, compared to less than 5 percent of those with Blue Cross insurance.

Last fall, a number of Idaho dentists said they needed to limit the number of Medicaid patients they see based on a cut in Medicaid reimbursements. Willow Tree, with three offices in the Treasure Valley, used to count 25 percent of its clientele as low-income patients, but financial pressure forced the caregiver to drop some clients as reimbursement fees were reduced.

You can read the new study in Pediatrics.