Quality of dental care is associated with one's race and economic status, according to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Dentistry.
'Recent evaluation of data collected for the Florida Dental Care Study (FDCS) demonstrated that the racial mix of dental practices attended was significantly associated with the service received and health outcome of the patient,' said Gregg Gilbert, D.D.S., chair of the Department of Diagnostic Sciences at the UAB School of Dentistry and author of the paper. 'Drawing from this evaluation, we conducted research to determine if African Americans or lower-income individuals attend practices that are typically different from practices attended by their white or higher-income counterparts.'
The FDCS participants' dentists completed questionnaires about their practices. Significant racial and income differences were apparent in dentists' reports of typical fees, procedures conducted, waiting room times, busyness, delays in getting an appointment and overall quality of care provided. For example, dentists were less likely to discuss preventive care with their patients, less likely to provide certain diagnostic and treatment services and less likely to talk with patients about alternatives to extraction in practices that saw mostly black or lower-income patients. These practices also tended to be busier and have longer waiting times than those attended mostly by whites or those with a higher income.
Although these findings were based on a relatively small group of participants in the FDCS, researchers say their findings parallel similar findings throughout the country.