OBJECTIVES: We estimated the use of preventive dental care services by the US Medicare population, and we assessed whether money spent on preventive dental care resulted in less money being spent on expensive nonpreventive procedures.
METHODS: We used data from the 2002 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to estimate a multinomial logistic model to analyze the influence of predisposing, enabling, and need variables in identifying those beneficiaries who used preventive dental care, only nonpreventive dental care, or no dental care in a multiple-variable context. We used regression models with similar controls to estimate the influence of preventive care on the utilization and cost of nonpreventive dental care and all dental care.
RESULTS: Our analyses showed that beneficiaries who used preventive dental care had more dental visits but fewer visits for expensive nonpreventive procedures and lower dental expenses than beneficiaries who saw the dentist only for treatment of oral problems.
CONCLUSIONS: Adding dental coverage for preventive care to Medicare could pay off in terms of both improving the oral health of the elderly population and limiting the costs of expensive nonpreventive dental care for the dentate beneficiary population.