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Characteristics of Medicaid Dental Providers Who Provide Oral Health Services to Pregnant Women in Virginia

Hasib Zaman, Depts. of Bioinformatics and Computer Science, with Dr. Shilipa Naavaal, VCU School of Dentistry

Introduction: Medicaid is a federal program that provides health insurance for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, and elderly adults in the United States. Virginia expanded their Medicaid, both financially and demographically, in January 2019 and currently has 1,317,981 individuals enrolled in Medicaid, which is an increase of 39.7% from 2018; however, within this expansion, there was no increase in budget for dental Medicaid. Although there are programs, such as Smile for Children, that cater to the oral health of pregnant women, many women do not use the available opportunities due to limited awareness and accessibility of services, as well as cultural factors affecting the quality of service (e.g., linguistic differences). Furthermore, only 39% of dentists nationwide accept Medicaid and/or children's health insurance, which not only discourages young families from seeking oral healthcare, but also limits their accessibility to these vital services. In order to clarify oral healthcare disparities for pregnant women, this study will explore the characteristics of providers who participate in Medicaid and provide oral health services to pregnant women in Virginia. Findings can inform policy focused on improving Medicaid participation among dental providers. Methods: The 2015-2018 Medicaid provider data was obtained through the State Department of Medical Assistance Services. The license numbers of each provider were collected using a public License Lookup tool available through the Virginia Department of Health Professions (VDHP). Additional provider characteristics (i.e., gender, age, years in practice, location) will be requested from the VDHP. Descriptive analysis is done to explore the characteristics of Medicaid providers, to map the distribution in the state of Virginia . Results: Analyses revealed that most providers were located in the Eastern and Northern regions of Virginia’s health districts (55%). These regions have the greatest number of providers that were involved in Medicaid, as it is a very suburban area containing a vast variety of demographics. Following these regions, there are approximately 11% of the providers in the Central region. Furthermore, the Northwest and Southwest regions combined to make up for approximately 34% of providers. Further analysis will be conducted in order to determine the socio demographic context of the providers within these regions. Discussions: During pregnancy, there is an increase in hormones that can affect one’s body’s response to plaque which can lead to increased tooth decay or gum disease. Therefore, there is a need to improve dental providers' participation in Medicaid to improve oral health services among pregnant women. These results have implications for workforce growth and development. Our study results suggest disparities in the distribution of dental providers by various characteristics. Findings provide an overview of the distribution of Medicaid, oral health providers throughout Virginia, with a particular concentration in the Northern region. Additionally, with regions such as Eastern and Northwestern that have a higher percentile of women that do not speak English fluently while having more providers that tend to be caucasian , there are demographic barriers between the two parties that inhibit women from seeking services.

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Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Prof. Shilipa Naavaal


Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program

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VCU Undergraduate Research Posters


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Characteristics of Medicaid Dental Providers Who Provide Oral Health Services to Pregnant Women in Virginia