Differences Among Older Adults in the Types of Dental Services Used in the United States

Differences Among Older Adults in the Types of Dental Services Used in the United States

Published: Jun 09, 2016
Publisher: Inquiry: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing, vol. 53, no. 1-11

Richard J. Manski

Haiyan Chen

John F. Moeller

The purpose of this article is to explore differences in the socioeconomic, demographic characteristics of older adults in the United States with respect to their use of different types of dental care services. The 2008 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) collected information about patterns of dental care use and oral health from individuals aged 55 years and older in the United States. We analyze these data and explore patterns of service use by key characteristics before modeling the relationship between service use type and those characteristics. The most commonly used service category was fillings, inlays, or bonding, reported by 43.6% of those with any utilization. Just over one third of those with any utilization reported a visit for a crown, implant, or prosthesis, and one quarter reported a gum treatment or tooth extraction. The strongest consistent predictors of use type are denture, dentate, and oral health status along with dental insurance coverage and wealth. Our results provide insights into the need for public policies to address inequalities in access to dental services among an older US population. Our findings show that lower income, less wealthy elderly with poor oral health are more likely to not use any dental services rather than using only preventive dental care, and that cost prevents most non-users who say they need dental care from going to the dentist. These results suggest a serious access problem and one that ultimately produces even worse oral health and expensive major procedures for this population in the future.

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