Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Public Health, 17 December 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2013.00065

Racial and ethnic variations in preventive dental care utilization among middle-aged and older Americans, 1999–2008

imageBei Wu1*, imageJersey Liang2, imageHuabin Luo3 and imageRobert Furter4
  • 1School of Nursing, Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
  • 2School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • 3East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA
  • 4University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC, USA

Objective: This study examined recent trends of preventive dental care utilization among Americans aged 50 and above, focusing on variations across racial and ethnic groups including Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Asians.

Methods: Self-reported information on oral health behaviors was collected from 644,635 participants in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System between 1999 and 2008.

Results: Despite a significant upward trend of frequency of dental cleaning from 1999 to 2008 (OR = 1.02), in 2008 still only 56–77% of any ethnic or racial group reported having had a dental cleaning in the previous 12 months. Relative to Whites, Blacks (OR = 0.65) were less likely to have a dental cleaning in the previous 12 months. These variations persisted even when SES, health conditions, health behaviors, and number of permanent teeth were controlled. In contrast, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians/Alaskan Natives did not differ from Whites in dental cleanings.

Discussion: This is the first study to provide national estimates of the frequency of dental cleaning and associated trends over time for five major ethnic groups aged 50 and above in the U.S. simultaneously. Our findings suggest that public health programs with an emphasis on educating middle-aged and older minority populations on the benefits of oral health could have a large impact, as there is much room for improvement. Given the importance of oral health and a population that is rapidly becoming older and more diverse, the need for improved dental care utilization is significant.

Keywords: racial disparity, dental care utilization, older adults, middle-aged, trends

Citation: Wu B, Liang J, Luo H and Furter R (2013) Racial and ethnic variations in preventive dental care utilization among middle-aged and older Americans, 1999–2008. Front. Public Health 1:65. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2013.00065

Received: 04 September 2013; Paper pending published: 23 September 2013;
Accepted: 21 November 2013; Published online: 17 December 2013.

Edited by:

Jie Hu, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA

Reviewed by:

Lei Quan, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, USA
Yingchen Wang, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, USA

Copyright: © 2013 Wu, Liang, Luo and Furter. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Bei Wu, School of Nursing, Global Health Institute, Duke University, 307 Trent Drive, Durham, NC 27710, USA e-mail: bei.wu@duke.edu

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