Discrimination and Socioeconomic Factors Contribute to Persistent Oral Health Disparities in US

CareQuest Institute for Oral Health
oral health


CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, a leading national nonprofit focused on creating a more accessible, equitable, and integrated oral health system, released new data showing that discrimination and socioeconomic factors are leading contributors to persistent oral health disparities in the US.

oral health

The survey revealed that among adults who reported encountering discrimination across various factors and social contexts in their lifetime, 37% had not undergone a routine dental visit in the last 12 months, in contrast to the 31% who had not faced discrimination. Furthermore, the experience of discrimination in oral health care showed a significant correlation with economic variables. For instance, individuals lacking dental insurance were almost twice as likely to report discrimination in oral health care (11%) compared to those with dental insurance (6%).

“The findings from this year’s survey underscore the troubling health disparities based on race, ethnicity, and economic status that continue to plague our health care system,” said Kaz Rafia, DDS, MBA, chief health equity officer and executive vice president of CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. “Every person should be able to achieve optimal health regardless of their background, and we will continue our work with policymakers, legislators, and advocates to ensure that dental care becomes more accessible for all.”

Findings in the report, based on a nationally representative survey of more than 5,000 adults, point to the significant gaps in health care access and affordability for Hispanic, Black, and Asian adults. According to the survey, individuals in minoritized communities reported worse oral health and irregular access to adequate dental care, despite reporting similar and, in some cases, better rates of oral hygiene habits such as brushing and cleaning between their teeth. Adults identifying their race/ethnicity as “other” were also more likely to report experiencing discrimination in the oral health care setting.

Key findings, summarized in the “Cost, Race, and the Persistent Challenges in Our Oral Health System” report include:

  • More than half of Black adults (52%) reported having lost one or more permanent teeth due to decay or gum disease, compared with 43% of all adults.
  • Adults earning $100,000 or more a year were much more likely to rate their oral health as excellent, very good, or good (87%), compared with 60% of those making less than $30,000 per year.
  • Homeownership was linked to higher rates of having a dental home, better self-rated oral health, and more regular dental visits, compared with renting or occupying a home without payment.
  • Among adults with a disability, 14% said they had experienced discrimination in the dental setting, and 27% said they had been denied oral health care due to discrimination.

These findings emphasize the need to continue working toward an oral health care system that includes enhanced dental coverage for all, including those enrolled in public programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

The State of Oral Health Equity in America survey created by CareQuest Institute is a nationally representative survey of 5,240 adults to study knowledge, attitudes, experiences, and behaviors related to oral health. It is the largest survey of its kind in the industry.

Read the full report.

About CareQuest Institute for Oral Health

CareQuest Institute is a national nonprofit championing a more equitable future where every person can reach their full potential through excellent health. We do this through our work in philanthropy, analytics and data insights, health transformation, policy and advocacy, and education as well as our leadership in dental benefits and innovation advancements. We collaborate with thought leaders, health care providers, patients, and local, state, and federal stakeholders, to accelerate oral health care transformation and create a system designed for everyone.

To learn more, visit carequest.org and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Sincerely Media on Unsplash.