OBJECTIVES: This evaluation of a state Medicaid dental program describes dental treatment received, relates treatment needed to treatment received, and describes enrollment and use over an 8-year period.
METHODS: Three databases were linked: (1) clinical records from a 1986/87 statewide epidemiological survey, providing data on treatment need; (2) Medicaid dental claims from 1984 through 1992, providing data on treatment received; and (3) Medicaid enrollment files from 1984 through 1992.
RESULTS: Half of Medicaid-enrolled children never used dental services. Among users of dental services, 45% and 25% of children needed restorations in primary and permanent teeth, respectively. In this group, 29% had all needs met, 28% had needs partially met, and 43% had no needs met. Forty-six percent of children sought care for only 1 year.
CONCLUSIONS: Federal guidelines for dental care are not met in this typical Medicaid population of short-term enrollees who use services sporadically. Programs should aim to increase use and ensure that all needed services, especially preventive procedures such as sealants, can be completed within the short period of time a child attends for care.