Primary Language Spoken at Home and Children's Dental Service Utilization in the United States
Format of Original
Journal of Public Health Dentistry
Objective: Language barriers have been well documented as a contributing factor to disparities in the receipt of medical services, especially for Hispanic children. However, there is a paucity of information on the effect of language barriers on children's dental service utilization. We examined the association of primary language spoken at home with the receipt of preventive and routine dental care for children in the United States. Methods: We analyzed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (2002-2004), which contains data on 21,049 children weighted to represent 75.8 million children nationally. Results: Among children aged 1-18 years, 13 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Whites, females, children between the ages of 7 and 12 years, and those whose parents spoke English at home had the highest marginal rates of preventive and routine dental visits. However, the large marginal effect of language, even among Hispanics, was not significant after adjusting for other covariates. Parental education and having a primary provider were the strongest predictors of preventive and routine dental visits. Conclusion: Children that did not speak English at home were less likely to receive preventive or routine dental care. However, after adjusting for other socio-economic factors, our study suggests that language barriers may not play as pronounced a role in the receipt of dental care as that documented for medical services.