Optimizing the mix of basic dental services for Southern Thai schoolchildren based on resource consumption, service needs and parental preference
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OBJECTIVES: To identify the optimal levels and mix of basic dental services (sealants and fillings for permanent teeth and extraction of primary teeth) under two different dental settings: hospital-based and mobile dental clinics under specified resource constraints. METHODS: A linear programming model is used based on explicit identification of system objectives and resource constraints. The objective was to maximize benefits as measured by parental willingness to pay (WTP) for basic dental services provided to schoolchildren subject to constraints on total resources, service need and parental preferences among different dental care settings. RESULTS: Optimization was identified to require 270, 180, 552, 828, 228 and 532 cases of hospital sealant, mobile sealant, hospital filling, mobile filling, hospital extraction and mobile extraction, respectively. The corresponding current service levels were 48, 281, 191, 170, 479, and 677 respectively. The optimal service configuration produced a total WTP of 485 860 baht which exceeded the WTP for the current service configuration by more than 75.4%. CONCLUSIONS: Mobile clinic fillings were the highest priority among basic dental services. The current service configurations fail to reflect the setting preferences and provide greater emphasis to extractions than the optimal configuration with less emphasis given to preventive and restorative services.
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