An Exploration of Oral Health Status, Dental Needs, Utilization of Dental Services, and Workforce
Disparities in oral health that affect the most vulnerable populations in the US particularly impact Latino communities, which now represent nearly 19% of the total US population. In this comprehensive white paper, the Hispanic Dental Association (HDA), in partnership with CareQuest Institute, identifies several key policies that can improve oral health and reduce inequalities among Hispanics in the US.
The report traces the history of Hispanics/Latinos in the US, analyzes the utilization of dental services, evaluates Hispanic representation within the dental workforce, and makes recommendations for policy changes to improve health and quality of life for Hispanics/Latinos.
Ongoing Oral Health Disparities
The HDA engaged with more than 63 experts in public health, dentistry, and academia to analyze the findings from multiple surveys and collaborate on recommendations to benefit Hispanic communities.
Key findings include:
- Family poverty level and education appear to be more sensitive than race/ethnicity in detecting inequities in dental caries (tooth decay).
- On average, less than half of Hispanic children from 12 to 19 years had one or more dental sealants, with few racial/ethnic differences.
- Approximately 15% of Hispanic adults aged 65 and over were edentulous (had no teeth).
- Across all age groups, Hispanics reported having “excellent” or “very good” status of teeth and gums in smaller numbers than non-Hispanic whites.
Policy recommendations include improved collection and disaggregation of data to understand disparities among Hispanic/Latino subgroups. The authors write, “It is essential to understand the micro-cultures within the Latino community to address behavioral patterns in oral health.”
You may also be interested in:
- Nuestra Sonrisa Hispana: Exploring Disparities in Hispanic Oral Health, a recorded webinar in which a panel of experts discuss how to provide better and more culturally appropriate care for Latino and Hispanic patients.
- The Glaring Scope of Racial Disparities in Oral Health, a communication brief that examines the health, economic, and educational implications of the oral health disparities linked to race and ethnicity.
- Health Equity Needs Teeth, an article in the AMA Journal of Ethics that discusses how the separation of dental care and medical care exacerbates inequities and how value-based approaches to health care can improve outcomes for everyone.