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Has any (general) private insurance covering dental services

Codes and Frequencies

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For persons with a comprehensive private health insurance plan (a plan that pays for more than one type of service), HIPDENTCOVR indicates whether they had insurance coverage for dental expenses. For 1986 and 1989, such coverage refers to the costs of dental services other than oral surgery. For 2008 forward, coverage refers to "any part of the cost of dental care."

HIPDENTCOVR, which reports on dental care benefits as part of comprehensive health insurance, should not be confused with SDENTALE, which indicates whether an individual had a single service plan to cover dental bills.

Users are strongly encouraged to review the user notes Insurance Data Collection and Private Insurance Definitions.

NHIS Data Collection on Dental Insurance 

For 1986, respondents were asked about dental coverage through private comprehensive health care plans. In that year, respondents were not specifically instructed to exclude single service plans (apart from those covering accidents), but such plans were rare; three years later, the NHIS Field Representative's Manual described such "specialty health care plans" as "a relatively new concept in health care insurance."

In 1989, respondents were asked about dental coverage as part of a comprehensive plan and were asked about single service plans (including those for dental services) later in the survey.

For 1993 to 1996 and for 1999 to 2007, coverage was reported only for persons with some kind of single service insurance; interviewers asked what type of service their plan paid for (with "dental care" as one option) (see SDENTALE for the recoded variable)

For 2008 forward, as in 1989, respondents were asked about dental coverage if it was part of a comprehensive plan and separately asked about coverage through a single service plan).

Number of Private Plans Considered for HIPDENTCOVR

For 1986 and 1989, information was collected separately on the details of coverage for up to five private insurance plans. For 2008 forward, information was collected on up to four plans, but only data from plans one and two are included in the NHIS public use files. Changes in the number of insurance plans considered should have little effect on the results for HIPDENTCOVR.

Persons with three or more plans have a "yes" response to HIPRIVGT2 (available for 2004 forward).

Survey questions

There were changes over time in the questions used to collect information about dental coverage within comprehensive insurance plans.


2008 forward

  • Does [Plan number] pay for any of the costs for dental care?
1986, 1989
  • (Not counting Medicare) Is anyone in the family now covered by a health insurance plan which pays any part of hospital, doctor, or dental bills? Do not include plans that pay for only one type of service, such as nursing home care or accidents.
  • Does it pay for any dental services other than oral surgery?


HIPDENTCOVR is completely comparable for 2008 forward, and also completely comparable between 1986 and 1989.

The comparability between the data from the 1980s and that for 2008 forward is limited somewhat by differences in question wording. The question for the 1980s referred to "dental services other than oral surgery," while that for 2008 referred to "any of the costs of dental care."

There were differences in the number of private plans considered (up to five for 1986 and 1989 versus two for 2008 forward), but this should have little effect, given the rarity of persons with more than two private plans.

The third factor limiting comparability is the back-editing of insurance data to correct respondents' misreporting of insurance type. Beginning in 1997, NCHS staff evaluated mismatches between verbatim insurance plan names and the type of coverage reported by respondents, and reclassified misreported cases into the proper category (e.g., from private insurance into Medicaid, or vice versa).

Therefore, for 2008 forward, details on private plan coverage, such as HIPDENTCOVR, reflect responses for which the coverage type was back-edited. For 1986 and 1989, respondents may have misreported what type of insurance they had, and these errors were not corrected. Users should thus exercise caution in comparing results for HIPDENTCOVR from the 1980s with the results from later years.


  • 1986; 1989: Persons who are covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans)
  • 2008-2018: Persons who are covered by a general health insurance plan (excludes single service plans)


  • 1986, 1989, 2008-2018