Access to Dental Care Among Hispanic Subgroups in EE.UU.


ral health is a significant component of overall health, a fact underscored by the recent release of a special report on oral health by the Surgeon General. The two leading dental diseases (i.e., caries and periodontal disease) are common health problems, affecting nearly everyone during his or her lifespan. Additionally, oral disease is increasingly found to be associated with other chronic diseases such as heart and lung disease, diabetes, and stroke. Social costs, such as loss of school or work days, can also be linked to poorer oral health (1). Previous research has indicated that many people in the United States do not receive essential preventive dental services and treatment, which may result in socioeconomic disparities in oral health status (2). Although efforts have been made to eliminate inequality in health and health care, disparities in access to oral health care continue to exist in EE.UU. 


This report presents national estimates of access to dental care for the following five subgroups of Hispanic or Latino persons in the United States: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, and other Hispanic or Latino.  


Combined data from the 2000–2003 National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, were analyzed to produce estimates for Hispanic or Latino persons aged 2 years and over. Information on dental care service utilization and unmet dental care needs due to cost was self-reported by persons aged 18 years and over. For children aged 2–17 years, the information was collected from an adult knowledgeable about the child’s health. 


Approximately 49% of Hispanic or Latino adults and 63% of Hispanic or Latino children had visited a dentist at least once in the past year. Mexican adults (44%) were least likely and Cuban adults (60%) were most likely to have used dental care in the past year. The percentage of adults with unmet dental needs was highest among Mexican adults (12%) and lowest among Cuban adults (6%). Among the five subgroups of Hispanic or Latino children, Mexican children (60%) were least likely and Puerto Rican children (72%) were most likely to have visited a dentist in the past year. Mexican children (9%) were more likely than Puerto Rican children (5%) and other Hispanic or Latino children (6%) to experience unmet dental needs due to cost. For both adults and children, underutilization of dental care services was most prevalent among those with poor or near poor poverty status, with less than a high school diploma,  foreign-born, without health insurance coverage, and who had resided in the United States for less than 5 years. 


Identifying and understanding these subgroup differences will help those who administer policies and design programs for Hispanic or Latinos to improve their access to dental care. 

—Heath News Network