The uptake rate of preventative dental care increased over a ten-year period in the United States, but there remains a large disparity among ethnic groups, reports one of the largest and most comprehensive studies on the subject, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Public Health.
Neglect of dental care can have serious consequences like decay, inflammation, and loss of teeth, and an increased risk of malnutrition. Gum disease has been implicated in an increased risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw, and cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Many avoid dental care due to fear of the dentist, but economic reasons are more common.
Key Study Findings Include:
- People with health insurance were 138% more likely to receive preventive dental care.
- Women were 33% more likely to receive preventive dental care than men.
- 77% of Asian Americans and 76% of Caucasians reported receiving preventive dental care in 2008. Hispanics, Native Americans, and African Americans, were significantly less likely (62%, 62%, and 57% of interviewees, respectively) to receive preventive dental care.
- Differences between Caucasians and other ethnic groups (except African Americans) in access to preventive dental care can be explained by socioeconomic differences such as income, education, and having health insurance.
- African Americans’ reduced access to preventive dental health might be due to an insufficient number of culturally competent dental care professionals, and to a lack of awareness of oral health and dental care services within this ethnic group.
- Many Native Americans in reservations receive inadequate dental care, partly because not enough dental care professionals are motivated to work for the Indian Health Services.
- Smokers were less likely to receive preventive dental health care. This is of particular concern since oral health is negatively affected by tobacco use.
Oral health is particularly important in a rapidly aging population, because middle-aged and older people are more likely to develop chronic conditions and complications.