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Racial Disparities Exist in Children's Dental Care

White children on Medicaid more likely to get dental care than African-American, Latino peers

THURSDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- Children covered by Medicaid -- especially Latinos and African-Americans -- visit dentists less frequently than children with private insurance; and, among children on Medicaid, Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to have longer time periods between visits than whites, according to research in the July issue of Health Affairs.

Nadereh Pourat, Ph.D., of the University of California in Los Angeles, and Len Finocchio, of the California HealthCare Foundation in Oakland, studied dental data on 10,805 children in California to determine the impact of racial or ethnic characteristics and insurance status on dental visits.

The researchers found that children with Medicaid have high rates of tooth decay but do not visit dentists as often as children with private insurance; this is especially true for Latino and African-American children. They also found that both African-American and Latino children insured by Medicaid are more likely than white children insured by Medicaid to have longer time periods between visits to the dentist. The same appears to be true for African-American and Latino children with private insurance.

"These findings raise concerns about Medicaid's ability to address disparities in dental care access and, more broadly, in health care," the authors write.

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