OBJECTIVES. Among young children in low-income families covered by Medicaid, we estimated (according to racial/ethnic group) whether children who have mothers with a regular source of dental care at baseline have greater dental use in the subsequent year than children with mothers without a regular source.

METHODS. From a population of 108151 children (aged 3 to 6 years) who were enrolled in Medicaid and their low-income mothers in Washington state, a disproportionate stratified random sample of 11305 children aged 3 to 6 was selected from enrollment records in 4 racial/ethnic groups: black (3791), Hispanic (2806), white (1902), and other racial/ethnic groups (2806). In a prospective cohort design, we conducted a baseline survey of mothers and for respondents collected their children's Medicaid dental claims in the 1-year follow-up period. Mutivariable regression models estimated the associations between the mothers' having a regular source of dental care at baseline and their children's prospective dental use.

RESULTS. Approximately 38% of the mothers had a regular source of dental care. Among children of black and Hispanic mothers, having a mother with a regular source of dental care at baseline was associated with greater odds of receiving any dental care in the subsequent year. For children with dental use, children of black or Hispanic mothers with a regular source of dental care received 1.22 and 1.10 more preventive services, respectively. For children of white mothers, associations were in the same direction but not significant.

CONCLUSIONS. For young children of black and Hispanic mothers, dental care use is higher when their mothers have a regular source of dental care. For low-income young children with Medicaid, increasing the mothers' access to dental care may increase the children's use of dental and preventive services, which, in turn, may reduce racial/ethnic inequalities in oral health.

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