Objectives: To document how race and ethnicity are identified, categorized, and utilized in contemporary dental public health literature.
Methods: Two researchers independently performed a literature review of all articles in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology and the Journal of Public Health Dentistry over a 5-year period (2004-2009). Articles pertaining to the study of US-based populations with any mention of race or ethnicity were included. The following data were abstracted from each article: a) how each article broadly described race and/or ethnicity; b) the terms used to specifically define the races and/or ethnicities captured; c) the location of any mention of the concept of race and/or ethnicity; d) the stated purpose for including race and/or ethnicity concepts; e) the stated analytic use of race and/or ethnicity concepts; and f) the stated method used to assess race and/or ethnicity concepts.
Results: Overall, race and/or ethnicity concepts were most commonly referred to within the text of the results section. Fifty percent of articles did not state their purpose for including race and/or ethnicity concepts within their studies, while 34.3 percent omitted stating their analytic use of these concepts. When assessing these concepts, 41.4 percent relied upon subject self-report.
Conclusion: These data showed that there was inconsistent documentation of how race and ethnicity was measured. While race and ethnicity are important measures for public health studies and are frequently reported in dental public health research, there is no clear system for classifying these measures.