Access to oral health care: the role of federally qualified health centers in addressing disparities and expanding access

Am J Public Health. 2013 Mar;103(3):488-93. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300846. Epub 2013 Jan 17.


Objectives: We examined utilization, unmet need, and satisfaction with oral health services among Federally Qualified Health Center patients. We examined correlates of unmet need to guide efforts to increase access to oral health services among underserved populations.

Methods: Using the 2009 Health Center Patient Survey, we performed multivariate logistic regressions to examine factors associated with access to dental care at health centers, unmet need, and patient experience.

Results: We found no racial or ethnic disparities in access to timely oral health care among health center patients; however, uninsured patients and those whose insurance does not provide dental coverage experienced restricted access and greater unmet need. Slightly more than half of health center patients had a dental visit in the past year, but 1 in 7 reported that their most recent visit was at least 5 years ago. Among health center patients who accessed dental care at their health center, satisfaction was high.

Conclusions: These results underscore the critical role that health centers play in national efforts to improve oral health status and eliminate disparities in access to timely and appropriate dental services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delivery of Health Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Dental Care / organization & administration
  • Dental Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Federal Government
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Healthcare Disparities* / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oral Health / standards
  • Oral Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • United States
  • Young Adult