BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE:

Research that has repeatedly documented marked racial/ethnic disparities in US children’s receipt of dental care at single time points or brief periods has lacked a historical policy perspective, which provides insight into how these disparities have evolved over time. Our objective was to examine the im-pact of national health policies on African American and white children’s receipt of dental care from 1964 to 2010.

METHODS:

We analyzed data on race and dental care utilization for children aged 2 to 17 years from the 1964, 1976, 1989, 1999, and 2010 National Health Interview Survey. Dependent variables were as follows: child’s receipt of a dental visit in the previous 12 months and child’s history of never having had a dental visit. Primary independent variable was race (African American/white). We calculated sample prevalences, and χ2 tests compared African American/white prevalences by year. We age-standardized estimates to the 2000 US Census.

RESULTS:

The percentage of African American and white children in the United States without a dental visit in the previous 12 months declined significantly from 52.4% in 1964 to 21.7% in 2010, whereas the percentage of children who had never had a dental visit declined significantly (P < .01) from 33.6% to 10.6%. Pronounced African American/white disparities in children’s dental utilization rates, whereas large and statistically significant in 1964, attenuated and became nonsignificant by 2010.

CONCLUSIONS:

We demonstrate a dramatic narrowing of African American/white disparities in 2 measures of children’s receipt of dental services from 1964 to 2010. Yet, much more needs to be done before persistent racial disparities in children’s oral health status are eliminated.

You do not currently have access to this content.