Bulletin of Dental Education

ADEA Releases New Policy Research Report on Dental Schools’ Role in Providing Oral Health Care Services

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Across the United States, dental schools deliver high-quality oral health care to many communities. Nearly 19,000 oral health students—predoctoral, allied and residents and postdoctoral—deliver oral health care services under the close supervision of one of the more than 6,000 faculty clinicians in dental schools across the country.

The ADEA Office of Educational Services conducted research on the involvement of U.S. dental schools in the provision of oral health care services and their engagement with such government programs as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Based on an analysis of the results of the 2021-22 ADEA U.S. Dental School Clinics Survey, this policy research report details the revenue sources and patient demographics of dental school clinics.

Key findings from this policy research report show that:

  • A substantial portion of patients at responding dental schools were covered by public insurance, in contrast with patients of private practices. Nearly four in 10 patients at dental schools were covered by public insurance—a figure nearly five times higher than the corresponding share at private dental practices (9%). Thirty-seven percent (37%) of responding dental school patients received coverage through Medicaid and CHIP.
  • Patients of dental schools were more likely to be Hispanic and African American than the national average for persons with dental visits. Almost one in four of the patients reporting race and ethnicity information to dental schools identified as Hispanic, while more than one in five as African American, non-Hispanic. These figures significantly surpass the national averages for Hispanic individuals with dental visits in 2019 and their African American, non-Hispanic counterparts.
  • Dental schools serve a higher proportion of Medicaid and CHIP working adults and more diverse patients than the national average for persons with dental visits. More than half of the Medicaid and CHIP patients reporting age information to dental schools fell between the ages of 20 and 64 years old, double the national rate of working-age individuals with dental visits covered solely by public insurance. 
  • Medicaid and CHIP are a significant revenue source for dental school clinics. They represented about a third of the revenue at dental school clinics, three times higher than the corresponding percentage of these public programs in national dental expenditures.
  • In their commitment to expanding access to oral health care, dental schools deliver a significant amount of uncompensated care. Dental schools demonstrated their dedication by delivering over $22 million worth of uncompensated care during FY 2021-22.

Dental schools serve as essential health providers within their communities, expanding access to oral health care services and contributing to the training of future oral health professionals. Their commitment to providing high-quality care at affordable rates, combined with their engagement in community-based initiatives, plays a pivotal role in improving oral health outcomes nationwide.

To learn more about the findings of this report and the ADEA Policy Research Series, click here. For any questions, please contact Emilia Istrate, Ph.D., M.A.I.S., ADEA Senior Vice President for Policy and Education Research, at adeadata@adea.org.

Published on March 13, 2024

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