Harvard Study Says Economics Is Main Factor in Oral Health Disparities
Differences in Americans' oral health may have more to do with socioeconomic status than with race, an ongoing Harvard University study of nearly 30,000 dentists suggests. In the study of 30,000 African-American, white and Asian-American dentists -- "a group with heightened awareness of oral health and access to dental care" -- researchers found "[o]nly small" disparities in the rates of tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease and precancerous oral growths. The recent U.S. Surgeon General's report on oral health found that 108 million Americans lack dental insurance, and children without dental insurance are 2.5 times less likely to receive dental care and three times more likely to develop dental problems. Furthermore, the report stated that poor children, the elderly and members of ethnic and racial minority groups are most prone to the "silent epidemic" of oral disease. The Harvard study's findings indicate that oral health is not based on race or ethnicity, but on awareness of oral health issues and availability of "affordable" dental care in low-income communities (Reuters Health release, 12/20/00).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.