Government Agency Navigation

Oral Health Care Utilization

Narrative

Regular dental care is essential to promote oral health and to prevent and treat tooth decay and infection. Untreated dental disease can produce significant pain and disability, and can result in tooth loss. In addition to daily brushing and flossing, the American Dental Association recommends regular dental exams and cleanings.1 Overall, 60.7 percent of adults reported having a dental visit in 2008–2010 (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Women were somewhat more likely to have had a past-year dental visit than men (64.1 and 57.0 percent, respectively).

Among both men and women, those with higher levels of education were more likely to have had a dental visit. For example, 80.9 percent of women with a college degree or higher had a past year dental visit, compared to only 41.6 percent of women with less than a high school education. Similarly, three-quarters of men with at least a college degree reported a past-year visit compared to 35.0 percent of those who did not graduate high school.

The proportion of women experiencing an unmet need for oral health care varies by race and ethnicity. In 2008–2010, 16.5 percent of women reported that they did not obtain needed dental care in the past year because they could not afford it; however, unmet need for care ranged from 9.1 percent among non-Hispanic Asian women to 30.3 percent among non-Hispanic women of multiple races.

Cost remains a significant barrier to receiving dental health services, even among adults with health insurance. Approximately 10 percent of women with private health insurance reported that they did not obtain needed dental care in the past year due to costs, while the same was true for 18.8 percent of women with public coverage. Those without insurance fared worse, however, with 43.4 percent of uninsured women reporting that they did not obtain needed care due to costs (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Even those with public or private insurance may face cost barriers due to limited or no coverage for dental services.2

1 American Dental Association. For the Dental Patient: Basic Oral Health Care. July 2000. Accessed 10/11/12.

2 Kaiser Family Foundation, Commission on Medicaid and the Underserved. Oral Health and Low-Income Nonelderly Adults: A Review of Coverage and Access. June 2012. Accessed 10/11/12.

Graphs

Data

Past Year Dental Visit Among Adults Aged 18 and Older, by Level of Education, 2008-2010
Level of Education Percent of Adults
Female Male
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey with multiply imputed poverty data, 2008-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Total 64.1 57.0
Less than High School 41.6 35.0
High School 56.1 48.8
Some College 67.3 59.8
College Degree of Higher 80.9 75.0

Unmet Need for Dental Care Due to Cost Among Women Aged 18 and Older,* by Race/Ethnicity,** 2008-2010

Percent of Women:

  • Total: 16.5%
  • Non-Hispanic White: 14.7%
  • Non-Hispanic Black: 21.3%
  • Hispanic: 23.2%
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native: 18.1%
  • Non-Hispanic Asian: 9.1%
  • Non-Hispanic Multiple Races: 30.3%

*Past year report of needing dental care but not getting it because of cost.
**The sample of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders was too small to produce reliable results.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey with multiply imputed poverty data, 2008-2010. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau.