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Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

Dental Research

WIC participation improves poor children's access to dental care

Over one-third of infants born in the United States are enrolled in the Federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC is often the first contact with the health care system for many poor women and children. To achieve the goal of good nutrition and health for women, infants, and children, the WIC agencies work to improve the linkage between clients and health care providers, including dentists, through referrals and networking.

According to findings from a recent study, the WIC program is working to improve dental health among children. The study found that children who participated in WIC had an increased probability of visiting the dentist, were more likely to use preventive and restorative services, and were less likely to use emergency services for oral problems.

In the study, which was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00032 and HS11607), Jessica Y. Lee, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of North Carolina, and her colleagues linked North Carolina Medicaid claims and enrollment data to WIC enrollment data to compare dental services use for children enrolled in WIC with those not enrolled. More than 50 percent of the 21,277 children enrolled in Medicaid were on WIC at any time during the 5-year study period.

Children who participated in WIC for a full year were about 1.7 times as likely to have two or more dental visits per year and 1.5 times as likely to have one dental visit as children who never participated in WIC. Children who participated in WIC for 1 year were nearly twice as likely to have a preventive visit and a restorative visit. WIC participation also led to reduced use of emergency services for oral problems; WIC participants were 32 percent less likely than non-participants to have an emergency visit related to oral problems.

See "Effects of WIC participation on children's use of oral health services," by Dr. Lee, R. Gary Rozier, D.D.S., M.P.H., Edward C. Norton, Ph.D., and others, in the May 2004  American Journal of Public Health 94(5), pp. 772-777.

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