OBJECTIVES: This cross-sectional study examined professional charges not paid to dentists. METHODS: This analysis used logistic regression in SUDAAN examining the 1996 MEPS data from 12,931 adults. RESULTS: Among people incurring dental care charges, 13.6% had more than $50 of unpaid charge (UC). The percapita UC was $53.30. Total UC was higher for highest income group [45.4% of total] compared to lowest income group [26.0%]. The percapita UC of $76.70 for low income group was significantly greater than for high income group ($47.80, P < 0.01). More Medicaid recipients (52% vs. non-recipients: 12%) incurred at least $50 in UC (P < 0.01). Adjusted odds of incurring UC were greater for those employed (OR = 1.3, 95% CI: 1.0-1.7), and for those with private insurance (OR: 1.5, CI: 1.3-1.9). Number of dental procedure types modified the association between Medicaid recipient and UC (OR = 13.6 for Medicaid recipients undergoing multiple procedure types; OR: 2.3 for Medicaid non-recipients with multiple procedure types; OR: 1.9 for Medicaid recipients receiving single dental procedure. CONCLUSIONS: Having private insurance, being unemployed and being Medicaid insured undergoing multiple procedure were strongest predictors of UC.