Socioeconomic Disparities and Oral Health


Some factors that may deter individuals from exercising good oral hygiene include poor living conditions, lack of proper education, and different cultures that may not stress the importance of oral health. Furthermore, keeping oral disease in check depends not only on the availability and accessibility of oral health systems, but also the reduction of risks to disease is possible only if services are also focused on primary healthcare and prevention.1

When a country or community lacks appropriate exposure to fluoride, there may be a higher risk of dental caries. Settings where access to safe water or sanitary conditions is nonexistent or limited should be considered environmental risk factors to both oral health and general health. Modifiable risk behaviors, such as oral hygiene practices, sugar consumption, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption may have a negative impact not only on oral health, but also on quality of life.1

Children of lower-income families are likely to have more cavities and less treatment than people with higher incomes2

The poor of all ages, with poor children and poor older Americans being particularly vulnerable, are the population groups who suffer from the worst oral health. Children of lower-income families are 12 times more likely to have restricted activity days due to dental problems than children from higher-income families. Children without insurance are 2.5 times less likely to receive dental care. Furthermore, adults below the poverty level without dental insurance are also less likely to visit the dentist.3

Percentage of children with untreated caries increases as income decreases

Individuals of racial and ethnic minority groups suffer from a disproportionate level of oral health issues. People with disabilities or those who are medically compromised are at a higher risk for oral disease, which, in turn, may further compromise their health.3

Action for Dental Health

A nationwide, community-based movement from the ADA aims to prevent a nationwide dental health crisis.

Socioeconomic Disparities and Oral Health Footnotes

References: 1. World Health Organization. Oral health: strategies and approaches in oral disease prevention and health promotion. Accessed October 13, 2015. 2. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The state of little teeth. Accessed November 9, 2015. 3. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Oral health in America: a report of the Surgeon General (executive summary). Accessed July 9, 2015.