Purpose: To assess the age the of the first dental visit and the association of self-perceived oral health, socioeconomic and clinical indicators with healthcare utilisation in Brazilian preschool children.
Materials and Methods: An epidemiological survey with 455 5- to 59-month-old children was conducted on National Children’s Vaccination Day in Santa Maria, RS, Brazil. Data about age and reasons for the first dental visit, healthcare utilisation, socioeconomic status and self-perceived oral health were collected by means of a parental semi-structured questionnaire. Calibrated examiners evaluated the prevalence of dental caries (WHO) and dental trauma. The assessment of the association used Poisson regression models (prevalence ratio; 95% confidence interval [CI]).
Results: A total of 24.2% (95% CI: 20.3% to 28.4%) of the study sample had already had a first dental visit. Older children, those with dental caries and dental trauma and whose mothers had a higher level of education were more likely to have gone to the dentist. Children of low socioeconomic status were more likely to have visited public than private healthcare services. The reasons for the first dental visit were associated with clinical indicators of the sample. The distribution of utilisation of the types of oral healthcare services (public or private) varied across the socioeconomic groups. Non-white children with dental caries and dental trauma tended to visit a dentist only for treatment reasons.
Conclusion: Socioeconomic and clinical indicators are associated with the use of dental services, indicating the need for strategies to promote public health and reorientation of services that facilitate dental access for preschool children.
Keywords: accessibility, health services, oral health, socioeconomic indicators