Measuring the quality of dental care among privately insured children in the United States


Sung Eun Choi, Elsbeth Kalenderian, and Sharon-Lise Normand. 2021. “Measuring the quality of dental care among privately insured children in the United States.” Health Serv Res.


OBJECTIVE: To examine whether quality of dental care varies by age and over time and whether community-level characteristics explain these patterns. DATA SOURCE: Deidentified medical and dental claims from a commercial insurer from January 2015 to December 2019. STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective cohort study. The primary outcome was a composite quality score, derived from seven dental quality measures (DQMs), with higher values corresponding to better quality. Hierarchical regression models identified person- and zip code-level factors associated with the quality. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: Continuously enrolled US dental insurance beneficiaries younger than 21 years of age. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Quality was assessed for 4.88 million person-years covering 1.31 million persons. Overall quality slightly improved over time, mostly driven by substantial improvements among children aged 0-5 years by 0.153 points/year (95% confidence interval [CI]:0.151, 0.156). Quality was poorest and declined over time among adolescents with only 20.5% of DQMs met as compared to 42.6% among aged 0-5 years in 2019. Dental professional shortage, median household income, percentages of African Americans, unemployed, and less-educated populations at the zip code level were associated with the composite score. CONCLUSION: Quality of dental care among adolescents remains low, and place of residence influenced the quality. Increasing the supply of dentists and oral health promotion strategies targeting adolescents and low-performing localities should be explored.