Recent Immigrants’ Use of Dental Care and Health Insurance Status in the USA

  • Shih-Ying Cheng
  • Takashi Amano
  • Jaime Perez-Aponte
  • Shanta Pandey



According to existing research, immigrants have poorer oral health than the US-born population. Evidence suggests that immigrants’ poor oral health is associated with a lack of health insurance and a lower use of preventive dental services. However, the role of Medicaid coverage on immigrants’ use of dental healthcare has not been well investigated.


To explore if the use of oral healthcare services increased among immigrants with Medicaid, this study analyzed a sample of 7578 legal immigrants aged between 18 and 65 using the 2003 New Immigrant Survey. Bivariate analyses and multivariate logistic regressions were performed to examine the relationship between immigrants’ health insurance status and the use of dental healthcare.


More than 60% of recent immigrants were not covered by any health insurance, and 56% did not schedule any dental services during the year prior to the survey. The results of the logistic regression revealed that immigrants covered by employment or private insurance were 74.3% more likely to have a regularly scheduled dental service, compared to immigrants who were uninsured. Having Medicaid coverage, however, was either not associated with or had smaller effect size in predicting immigrants’ use of dental services using the two analytic samples. The results of an additional bivariate analysis suggested that Medicaid was insufficient in covering dental healthcare expenses.


This study highlighted the low use of dental services among recent immigrants and the high proportion of them currently uninsured. The study also suggested the need for better coverage of dental healthcare expenses for Medicaid recipients.


Medicaid Health service utilization Immigrants Oral health 


Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


This study was not funded.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brown SchoolWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkBoston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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