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Racial Discrimination and Uptake of Dental Services among American Adults

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Wael Sabbah, Aswathikutty Gireesh, Malini Chari, Elsa K Delgado-Angulo, Eduardo Bernabé

Original languageEnglish
Article number1558
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


King's Authors


This study examined the relationship between racial discrimination and use of dental services among American adults. We used data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a health-related telephone cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of adults in the United States. Racial discrimination was indicated by two items, namely perception of discrimination while seeking healthcare within the past 12 months and emotional impact of discrimination within the past 30 days. Their association with dental visits in the past year was tested in logistic regression models adjusting for predisposing (age, gender, race/ethnicity, income, education, smoking status), enabling (health insurance), and need (missing teeth) factors. Approximately 3% of participants reported being discriminated when seeking healthcare in the past year, whereas 5% of participants reported the emotional impact of discrimination in the past month. Participants who experienced emotional impact of discrimination were less likely to have visited the dentist during the past year (Odds Ratios (OR): 0.57; 95% CI 0.44-0.73) than those who reported no emotional impact in a crude model. The association was attenuated but remained significant after adjustments for confounders (OR: 0.76, 95% CI 0.58-0.99). There was no association between healthcare discrimination and last year dental visit in the fully adjusted model. Emotional impact of racial discrimination was an important predictor of use of dental services. The provision of dental health services should be carefully assessed after taking account of racial discrimination and its emotional impacts within the larger context of social inequalities.

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