Objective: To compare the dental care utilization practices of rural and urban residents in the United States.
Methods: Data on dental care utilization from the 1999 National Health Interview Survey for persons 2 years of age and older (n=42, 139) were analyzed by rural/urban status. Percentages and 95 percent confidence intervals were calculated to produce national estimates for having had a visit in the past year, the number of visits, reasons given for last dental visit and for not visiting a dentist, unmet dental needs, and private dental insurance.
Results: Rural residents were more likely to report that their last dental visit was because something was "bothering or hurting" (23.3% vs 17.6%) and that they had unmet dental needs (10.1% vs 7.5%). Urban residents were more likely to report having a dental visit in the past year (57.7% vs 66.5%) and having private dental insurance (32.7% vs 37.2%), compared to rural residents. There were no significant differences in most reasons given for not visiting the dentist between rural and urban respondents.
Conclusion: Dental care utilization characteristics differ between rural and urban residents in the United States, with rural residents tending to underutilize dental care.