Practice Patterns of Postgraduate Trained Dentists in the United States
Postgraduate dental (PGD) primary care training has grown significantly. This study examines the individual, educational, community, and policy factors that predict practice patterns of PGD-trained dentists.
Individual dentist records from the 2017 American Dental Association Masterfile, with indicators of Medicaid participation and practice in a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), were linked to postdoctoral training, community/practice location, and state policy factors. Generalized logistic models, adjusted for these factors, were used to predict PGD-trained dentists: (1a) serving Medicaid children, (1b) accepting new Medicaid patients, and (2) working in an FQHC.
Individual attributes that predicted serving Medicaid children included all race/gender combinations (vs. White females), and foreign-trained dentists and contractors/employees/associates (vs. practice owners). Black women are most likely to work in an FQHC. Residency attributes that predicted serving Medicaid children and working in an FQHC were Health Resources and Services Administration postdoctoral funding and being community based. Dentists practicing in rural or high-poverty communities were more likely to serve Medicaid children and work at FQHCs. States with higher levels of graduate medical education investment, higher Medicaid rates, and more generous adult dental Medicaid benefits increased the likelihood of serving Medicaid children, while states with more expansive adult dental Medicaid benefits increased the likelihood of working in an FQHC.
Federal training investment in PGD education combined with Medicaid payment and coverage policies can strongly impact access to dental care for vulnerable populations. Yet, oral health equity cannot be achieved without increasing dentist workforce diversity.