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Public Health


JaMuir Robinson


Many people in the United States have untreated dental disease due to a lack of dental insurance, a lack of oral health knowledge, and a lack of priority placed on dental health. Despite an increase in dental service use by Medicaid recipients as a result of local programs, children enrolled in Medicaid often have low rates of use of dental services. Using the health literacy framework of the Paasche-Orlow and Wolf (POW) model, the purpose of this study was to explore to the relationship between oral health literacy of parents and dental service use for children enrolled in Medicaid and the differences in use rates between preventive and restorative services. A cross-sectional research design was employed within a convenience sample of parents who presented to a nonprofit clinic for a medical appointment. Participants completed a demographic profile, an oral health questionnaire, and REALD-30 survey. Responses were correlated with dental claims retrieved from 1 reference child for each parent. Pearson's correlation revealed no significant relationship between oral health literacy and dental service utilization, r = -.056 (p = .490). An ANOVA revealed no difference in utilization between preventive and restorative services, F (2, 149) = .173, p = .841, ç2 = .002. However, high rates of use for restorative services were observed, suggesting a high prevalence of tooth decay in children. Although this study did not find a significant relationship between oral health literacy and dental utilization, barriers continue to exist that contribute to the high rates of tooth decay in children enrolled in Medicaid. This study impacted social change by highlighting the importance of preventive care in reducing the prevalence of tooth decay.