• health services accessibility;
  • dental care for children;
  • oral health;
  • inequalities in health


Objectives: To assess the role of the individual determinants on the inequalities of dental services utilization among low-income children living in the working area of Brazilian's federal Primary Health Care program, which is called Family Health Program (FHP), in a big city in Southern Brazil.

Methods: A cross-sectional population-based study was performed. The sample included 350 children, ages 0 to 14 years, whose parents answered a questionnaire about their socioeconomic conditions, perceived needs, oral hygiene habits, and access to dental services. The data analysis was performed according to a conceptual framework based on Andersen's behavioral model of health services use. Multivariate models of logistic regression analysis instructed the hypothesis on covariates for never having had a dental visit.

Results: Thirty one percent of the surveyed children had never had a dental visit. In the bivariate analysis, higher proportion of children who had never had a dental visit was found among the very young, those with inadequate oral hygiene habits, those without perceived need of dental care, and those whose family homes were under absent ownership. The mechanisms of social support showed to be important enabling factors: children attending schools/kindergartens and being regularly monitored by the FHP teams had higher odds of having gone to the dentist, even after adjusting for socioeconomic, demographic, and need variables.

Conclusions: The conceptual framework has confirmed the presence of social and psychosocial inequalities on the utilization pattern of dental services for low-income children. The individual determinants seem to be important predictors of access.