Document Type

Master's Culminating Experience

Publication Date



The Surgeon General’s Call to Action report in 2000 established the problem of oral health disparities as an important public health issue. Because of its widespread prevalence and preventable nature, the problem of untreated dental caries and poor oral health has been called a “neglected epidemic.” As in other areas of health, the poor often carry a disproportionate burden of oral health problems. The purpose of this research was to examine the patient population who utilized the dental clinic at the Good Neighbor House, a health and human service organization that serves as a safety net clinic, to determine the dental needs of patients there and how those needs change among different income levels, races, and ages. Previous literature on oral health disparities identified these characteristics as having a statistically significant relationship with untreated and more severe dental needs. The charts of all dental patients receiving care at the clinic between August 2011 and August 2012 were reviewed to document patient demographic characteristics, including income, age, and race. Treatment plans, developed by dentists at the patients’ initial visit, were also reviewed to document the specific treatment needs of the patients. These needs were then categorized by severity level. Chi-square analysis was used to determine any statistically significant relationships. The findings were consistent with previous literature that a significant relationship exists between income and dental care needs, while age and race were had no statistically significant relationship to dental care needs.