The aim of this study was to determine the effect of a dental care coordinator intervention on increasing dental utilization by Medicaid-eligible children compared with a control group.
One hundred and thirty-six children enrolled in Medicaid aged 4 to 15 years at baseline in 2004 who had not had Medicaid claims for 2 years, were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups for 12 months. Children and caregivers in the intervention group received education, assistance in finding a dentist if the child did not have one, and assistance and support in scheduling and keeping dental appointments. All children continued to receive routine member services from the dental plan administrator, including newsletters and benefit updates during the study.
Dental utilization during the study period was significantly higher in the intervention group (43 percent) than in the control group (26 percent). The effect was even more significant among children living in households well below the Federal Poverty Level. The intervention was effective regardless of whether the coordinator was able to provide services in person or via telephone and mail.
The dental care coordinator intervention significantly increased dental utilization compared with similar children who received routine Medicaid member services. Public health programs and communities endeavoring to reduce oral health disparities may want to consider incorporating a dental care coordinator along with other initiatives to increase dental utilization by disadvantaged children.