A report in the February issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) shows that dental benefits play a significant role in meeting the dental needs of children, including checkups and treatments.

The report finds U.S. children enrolled in private or public dental care plans were more likely to receive dental care than children who did not have coverage from 1997 to 2014. The study also showed that unmet dental needs of children who were enrolled in a dental care plan, private or public, steadily decreased from 2009 to 2014.

“The number of uninsured children decreased by 58% from 1997 to 2014 with a significant shift from private to public insurance coverage,” stated authors Maryam Amin, DMD, MSc, PhD, Maryam Elyasi, DDS, and Zhou J. Yu, BSc. “The shift toward use of public insurance along with a significant association between unmet needs and dental visits support the effectiveness of publicly funded programs in facilitating the use of dental services in the United States.”

The authors examined data from more than 65,000 participants collected by the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Dental needs are met by regular visits to the dentist and adequate access to dental care. According to the study, some barriers to receiving care include socioeconomic status, beliefs about dental care, and the accessibility of providers. Some enabling factors include level of education, household income, and dental insurance.

“If an imbalance exists between barriers and enabling factors, a patient may have a higher chance of having unmet dental needs because of cost, which leads to delayed diagnosis of issues, more complex treatment, and ultimately increased burden on public health systems,” the authors stated.