OBJECTIVES: We examined dental care utilization transition dynamics between 2004 and 2006 in the context of changing dental coverage status.
METHODS: We used data from the Health and Retirement Study for persons aged 51 years and older to estimate a multivariable model of dental care use transitions with controls for dental coverage and retirement transitions and other potentially confounding covariates.
RESULTS: We found that Americans aged 51 years and older who lost dental coverage between the 2004 and 2006 survey periods were more likely to stop dental care use between periods, and those who gained coverage were more likely to start dental care use between periods, than those without coverage in both periods.
CONCLUSIONS: Dental coverage transitions and status have a strong effect on transitions in dental care use. Given that retirement is a time when many experience a loss of dental coverage, older adults may be at risk for sporadic dental care and even stopping use, leading to worse dental and potentially overall health.