Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Epidemiology & Community Health

First Advisor

Tegwyn Brickhouse


Background: Regular access to dental services is a well-known factor in the oral health and development of children.1 As such, the United States federal government mandates each state to include dental services for children enrolled in Medicaid through the age of 21. Despite this mandate, the utilization rate of dental services among Medicaid enrolled children has remained remarkably low.2 In July 2005, Virginia implemented a sweeping Medicaid policy reform titled “Smiles for Children,” specifically aiming to increase Medicaid pediatric dental utilization rates. The purpose of this study aims to assess the effect of this 2005 policy reform on the utilization of dental services by children enrolled in Medicaid. Objective: The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of the 2005 Virginia Smiles for Children Medicaid policy reform on the utilization of dental services among Medicaid enrolled children. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of children (pre-reform n=559,820, post-reform n=690,538) enrolled in Virginia Medicaid from 2002 through 2008. Descriptive statistics and repeated measures multivariate logistic regressions were used to determine the relationship between enrollment (Pre- and Post-policy reform) and the utilization of dental services (1+ Dental Visits vs. No Dental Visits). Results: Descriptive analysis of the cohort found that 34% of pre-reform children had a dental visit while 44% of post-reform children. The logistic regression models revealed that children in the post reform period were 1.39 as likely to have had a dental visit. Stratifying for enrollment length reveals that as the length of exposure time to the post-reform policy increases, the odds of having a dental visit also increase as compared to the pre-reform period: for 31-36 months of enrollment the odds increase 1.54 times. Conclusions: Medicaid policy reform can significantly improve access to dental services for children and can therefore play an important role in promoting public health.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2010

Included in

Epidemiology Commons