Pediatric Oral Health Service Access in Racial/Ethnic Minority Neighborhoods: A Geospatial Analysis in Washington, D.C., USA

Dent Res Oral Health. 2024;7(1):36-42. doi: 10.26502/droh.0073. Epub 2024 Mar 6.


Oral health plays a crucial role in overall well-being. One of the goals set by the US Department of Health and Human Service, Healthy People 2030 is to reducing dental caries in children and adolescents. The study aims to investigate the accessibility of pediatric dental care in neighborhoods with mixed-race and predominantly African American populations in the Washington District of Columbia (DC) area. Our objective is to uncover and highlight the disparities that exist in pediatric dental care within these communities. We have specifically examined the geographic and socio-demographic aspects of pediatric dental care facilities, utilizing geospatial tools such as modeling and mapping, as well as data from the clinical database at Howard University College of Dentistry. The detailed analysis of dental care access revealed significant disparities among various Wards in the region. Specifically, Wards 5, 7, and 8 stood out as having both the highest concentrations of African American residents and the lowest availability of pediatric dentistry providers when compared to the more affluent Wards 1, 2, and 3. Howard University College of Dentistry's pediatric dentistry department played a crucial role in providing dental care services to the community. Over the course of the year 2022, they recorded a total of 3,855 visits from residents of the DC area. Notably, a substantial portion of these visits, specifically 1,566 visits, were from individuals residing in Wards 5, 7 and 8. This data underscores the significant demand for pediatric dental services in these underserved communities and highlights the importance of addressing the disparities in access to care.

Keywords: Dental care; Geospatial analysis; Oral health; Oral health disparity; Pediatric dentistry.