Quality Measure Adherence and Oral Health Outcomes in Children


Sung Eun Choi, Ankur Pandya, Joel White, Elizabeth Mertz, and Sharon-Lise Normand

January 30, 2024

IMPORTANCE: Process-based quality measures are generally intended to promote evidence-based practices that have been proven to improve outcomes. However, due to lack of standardized implementation of diagnostic codes in dentistry, assessing the association between process and oral health outcomes has been challenging.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the association of adhering to dental quality measures with patient oral health outcomes.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: Using a target trial emulation, a causal inference framework, this retrospective cohort study estimated the difference in the risk of developing tooth decay between US children who adhered to process-based dental quality measures (receiving topical fluoride and sealant [treated groups]) and those who did not (control groups). Electronic health records of US children and adolescents aged 0 to 18 years from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2020, were used. To emulate random treatment assignment based on baseline confounders, coarsened exact matching was used to produce covariate balance between the treated and control groups. A time-to-event regression model produced effect estimates, adjusting for time-varying covariates. Near-far matching was used to account for unmeasured confounders as a sensitivity analysis. Data were analyzed from May 1 to August 7, 2023.

CONCLUSIONS: In this cohort study, adhering to dental quality measures was associated with reduced risk of tooth decay, and benefits were greater among children at elevated risk and with public insurance. These findings provide insights in facilitating targeted application of quality measures or developing more tailored quality improvement initiatives.