Context: The limited information available on the oral health status of rural children in the United States makes it difficult to devise policy strategies to address perceived problems.
Purpose: To document the oral health status and dental care utilization of US children by place of residence,
Methods: Data from National Health Interview Surveys for 1995, 1997, and 1998, and from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994) were analyzed.
Findings: Children residing in rural areas were more likely to be uninsured for dental care than were children from urban areas (41.1% versus 34.7%). A greater percentage of rural than urban children reported unmet dental needs (7.5% versus 5.6%); there was no difference in self-reported poor dental status. Urban children were more likely than rural children to have visited the dentist in the past year (73.6% versus 69.9%) and were also more likely to be regular users of dental care (61.7% versus 51.4%). Differences in percentage of rural and urban children with caries lesions and caries experience were not significant.
Conclusions: Children residing in rural areas have less access to and utilization of dental care compared to children residing in urban areas. Moreover, poor rural children display less utilization of dental services than poor urban children. Differences in the sum of decayed and filled primary teeth and the sum of decayed, missing, and filled permanent teeth were not significant.