Variations in children's dental service use based on four national health surveys

Melissa A. Romaire, Janice F Bell, Colleen E. Huebner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To compare estimates of dental service use and delayed dental care across 4 national surveys of children's health. METHODS: Among children 2 to 17 years of age, prevalence estimates of the use of any dental services, preventive dental services, and delayed dental care in the past year were obtained from the 2003 and 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the 2003 and 2007 National Health Interview Survey, and the 2003 and 2007 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Trends in parent-reported dental use, including delayed care, by sociodemographic characteristics were assessed by using logistic regression and odds ratios. RESULTS: Data collection methodologies varied across the 4 surveys, and estimates of dental service use varied accordingly. Surveys differed in the survey items used, recall time frames, and protocols for eliciting visit history. As a result, estimates of any dental use ranged from 52% to 81%, whereas estimates of preventive dental use ranged from 67% to 78%. Rates of delayed dental care were low, ranging from 3% to 8%; however, surveys showed consistent sociodemographic disparities in use of dental services and delayed dental care. CONCLUSIONS: Each survey has a unique approach to defining and eliciting parents' reports of children's dental service use, which could result in under- or overestimation of the number and nature of children's dental services. Each survey 's methodology must be considered when accepting population-based estimates of dental service use to monitor progress in achieving national oral health goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental care for children
  • Health care surveys
  • Health services need

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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