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Inequalities in dental services use by older adults in Chile according to eligibility for a national dental programme.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence and trends in dental service use among Chilean older adults (60+ years) between 2006 and 2017; to assess the association between socioeconomic factors and dental service use and type (public/private) in 2017 and whether these differ by eligibility to a national dental programme (GES-60).

METHODS: This study involved secondary data analysis of five nationally representative cross-sectional surveys between 2006 and 2017. Trends were assessed for use of dental services and types of services used among 60-79-year-olds. Logistic regression models examined the association between use of dental services in 2017 and socioeconomic variables (income and education), accounting for covariates (age, gender, residence, ethnicity, cohabiting status, employment and disability). Estimated marginal means and odds ratios (ORs) were calculated to assess the association between socioeconomic variables and the outcomes by GES-60 eligibility.

RESULTS: Across surveys, the average prevalence of use of dental services in the last 3 months was 5.0%. There was a slight increase in dental visits between 2006 and 2017. This trend was higher among GES-60 eligible individuals using public dental services. Inequalities were observed in regression analyses. Compared to the poorest quintile and those with no formal education respectively, the ORs were 2.36 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.79-5.68) for the richest quintile and ranged from 2.91 (95% CI 1.49-5.68) to 6.43 (3.26-12.68) for each higher level of educational attainment. Inequalities were wider among GES-60 non-eligible than GES-60 eligible older adults for both outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Socioeconomic inequalities were present among older adults regardless of GES-60 eligibility. However, these inequalities were more pronounced among non-eligible individuals. Our findings suggest a limited impact of GES-60 only among eligible older adults. Policies considering the needs of the whole older adult population are likely to have a stronger impact.

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