Although not widely recognized, tooth decay is the most common childhood chronic disease among children ages five to seventeen. Despite higher rates of dental caries and greater needs, low-income minority children enrolled in Medicaid are more likely to go untreated relative to their higher income counterparts. No research has examined this issue for children with special needs. We analyzed Medicaid enrollment and claims data for special-needs children enrolled in the District of Columbia Medicaid program to evaluate receipt of recommended preventive dental care. Use of preventive dental care is abysmally low and has declined over time. Enrollment in managed care rather than fee for service improves the likelihood that special-needs children receive recommended preventive dental services, whereas residing farther from the Metro is an impediment to receipt of dental care.

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