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HPI shares new state-level approach to measuring access to dental care

June 08, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

The ADA Health Policy Institute has developed a new approach to measuring geographic access to dental care at the state level. The state-by-state analysis geolocates dental providers and looks at each individual state's Medicaid and general population separately to help identify areas with insufficient access.

During a May 31 webinar, Measuring What Matters — A New Way of Measuring Geographic Access to Dental Care Services, Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., ADA vice president and HPI chief economist, led a discussion on the new methodology, which he hopes will assist federal and state policymakers on addressing oral health and access issues.

"This new research shows that, nationwide, the majority of publicly insured children live within 15 minutes of a Medicaid dentist and in some states it's as high as 99 percent," Dr. Vujicic said. "Moreover, when it comes to why people avoid going to the dentist, not being able to find one is pretty far down the list. We hope that this innovative, peer-reviewed research — the result of two years of work — presents a very practical, data-driven way policymakers can assess access to dental care in their states."

The webinar also showed how common methods of assessing access to dental care providers have significant shortcomings.

On the provider side, the new methodology is based on a newly constructed dentist office database from the ADA's master file and other sources. It then maps every location where at least one dentist participates in Medicaid or CHIP, including FQHCs and dental school clinics, adjusting for full-time equivalency based on age and multiple locations.

On the population side, the new methodology maps the general population as well as children with public health insurance using U.S. Census data.

Then, the geoanalysis creates 5-, 15- and 30-minute travel times around the population and dental offices, calculating distances based on street network data, and measuring the density of dentists relative to population.

The webinar, which included Dr. Jayanth Kumar, state dental director for the California Department of Public Health, and Marty Milkovic, Director of Care Coordination & Outreach, Connecticut Dental Health Partnership, is available here along with access to the presentation's Powerpoint slides.

Visit and select the desired state on the map to view the HPI Geographic Access to Dental Care report.