Oral health equity and unmet dental care needs in a population-based sample: findings from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin

Malecki, K., L. E. Wisk, M. Walsh, C. McWilliams, S. Eggers, and M. Olson. Oral Health Equity and Unmet Dental Care Needs in a Population-Based Sample: Findings from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin. Vol. 105 Suppl 3, American Journal of Public Health, 2015.

DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302338 PMID: 25905843 PMCID: PMC4455504 OBJECTIVES: We used objective oral health screening and survey data to explore individual-, psychosocial-, and community-level predictors of oral health status in a statewide population of adults. METHODS: We examined oral health status in a sample of 1453 adult Wisconsin residents who participated in the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin Oral Health Screening project, conducted with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services during 2010. RESULTS: We found significant disparities in oral health status across all individual-, psychosocial-, and community-level predictors. More than 15% of participants had untreated cavities, and 20% did not receive needed oral health care. Individuals who self-reported unmet need for dental care were 4 times as likely to have untreated cavities as were those who did not report such a need, after controlling for sociodemographic and behavioral factors. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggested that costs were a primary predictor of access to care and poor oral health status. The results underscored the role that primary care, in conjunction with dental health care providers, could play in promoting oral health care, particularly in reducing barriers (e.g., the costs associated with unmet dental care) and promoting preventive health behaviors (e.g., teeth brushing).

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