Objective. To test five hypotheses that non-Hispanic African Americans (AAs) and non-Hispanic whites (NHWs) differ in responsiveness to new dental symptoms by seeking dental care, and differ in certain predictors of dental care utilization.
Data Sources/Study Setting.Florida Dental Care Study, comprising AAs and NHWs 45 years old or older, who had at least one tooth, and who lived in north Florida.
Study Design. We used a prospective cohort design. The key outcome of interest was whether dental care was received in a given six-month period, after adjusting for the presence of certain time-varying and fixed characteristics.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods. In-person interviews were conducted at baseline and 24 months after baseline, with six-monthly telephone interviews in between.
Principal Findings. African Americans were less likely to seek dental care during follow-up, with or without adjusting for key predisposing, enabling, and oral health need characteristics. African Americans were more likely to be problem-oriented dental attenders, to be unable to pay an unexpected $500 dental bill, and to report postbaseline dental problems. However, the effect of certain postbaseline dental signs and symptoms on postbaseline dental care use differed between AAs and NHWs. Although financial circumstance was predictive for both groups, it was more salient for NHWs in separate NHW and AA regressions. Frustration with past dental care, propensity to use a homemade remedy, and dental insurance were significant predictors among AAs, but not among NHWs. The NHWs were much more likely to have sought care for preventive reasons.
Conclusions. Racial differences in responsiveness to new dental symptoms by seeking dental care were evident, as were differences in other predictors of dental care utilization. These differences may contribute to racial disparities in oral health.