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Oral Health

In addition to the pain and disability that oral conditions and diseases can cause, oral health is also associated with chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Regular dental visits play an important role in prevention of these diseases and conditions (HP 2020 Access).

Poor access to health care and dental services is an important predictor of oral diseases; access often varies by education level, income, race, and ethnicity. Other barriers include limited availability of dental services, lack of awareness, cost, and fear of dental procedures.

Findings in Santa Barbara County

Measure

Access to dental health care was measured by visits to a dentist or dental clinic in the past year and was based on the following question “How long has it been since you last visited a dentist or a dental clinic for any reason? Include visits to dental specialists, such as orthodontists.”

Table 10. Percentage of Adults Visiting a Dentist in the Past Year and Healthy People 2020 Target

2016 Santa Barbara
BRFSS
California*Health People 2020
Target
%(95% CI) % (95% CI)
Overall 70.0 (67.1–72.9) 65.1 (63.8–66.4)
Male 68.1 (63.7–72.5) 62.7 (60.9–64.6)
Female 71.9 (68.0–75.8) 67.3 (65.6–69.1)
49.0**
Hispanic 61.1 (55.9–66.4) 55.0 (52.5–57.4)
Non-Hispanic White 76.3 (72.6–79.9) 72.5 (70.9–74.1)
Other 70.8 (60.6–80.9) NA

*2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
**Healthy People 2020 Target includes children and adults aged ≥2 years. While the 2016 SB BRFSS dentist access data above are for adults only, 80.2% of children included in the SB BRFSS survey had seen a dentist in the last year.

Figure 24. Percentage of Adults Visiting a Dentist in Santa Barbara County, by Sex and Age

Percentage of Adults Visiting a Dentist in Santa Barbara County, by Sex and Age Click to Enlarge

Figure 25. Percentage of Adults Visiting a Dentist in Santa Barbara County, by Race/Ethnicity, Educational Attainment, and Income

Percentage of Adults Visiting a Dentist in Santa Barbara County, by Race/Ethnicity, Educational Attainment, and IncomeClick to Enlarge

Dental Care for Children and Health Disparities

The questionnaire asked adult respondents about dental health care for the children who live with them. Adults reported that overall, 80.2% (95% CI, 74.8–85.5%) of the children in their care had seen a dental health care professional in the past year. Boys and girls were equally likely to receive care.

Over 90% of children 5 and older had seen a dentist or dental health care professional in the past year, but only 45.7% of those 4 or younger had received care. Children in lower-income and Hispanic families, as well as those whose parent did not have a high school degree, were less likely to have received care.

Dental Care for Adults and Health Disparities

The overall percentage of Santa Barbara County adult residents reporting visits to dental health care professionals in the past year is notably higher than the HP 2020 target (which includes children) and higher than California's rate.

However, three groups have the lowest proportion of residents with access to dental health care: Hispanics, people without a high school degree, and those in the lowest income group. Significantly, 10.5% of Santa Barbara County citizens without a high school degree report never having visited a dentist.

Figure 26. Percentage of Santa Barbara County Adults Who Reported Not Visiting a Dentist in the Past Year, by County Subregion

Percentage of Santa Barbara County Adults Who Reported Not Visiting a Dentist in the Past Year, by County SubregionClick to Enlarge

Factors and Health Outcomes Associated with Access to Dental Health Care

Figure 27 presents various factors and health outcomes that are associated with access to dental health care. The figure compares people who had no dental care in the past year with all adults in the Santa Barbara County survey and with Californians as a whole.

Figure 27. Health and Risk Factors of Adults in Santa Barbara County Who Had Not Seen a Dentist in the Past 12 Months (30.0%), Compared With All Santa Barbara County Adults and Californians* as a Whole

Health and Risk Factors of Adults in Santa Barbara Who Had Not Seen a Dentist in the Past 12 Months (30.0%), Compared With All Santa Barbara Adults and Californians* as a WholeClick to Enlarge

*Data for California are not available for all indicators

Adults who had not had dental care in the past year also do not report good health; they report that their health is only fair or poor, compared with residents of Santa Barbara County as a whole. This indicator of poorer health, like many others, is more common among people without a high school degree and without a regular primary care provider. A larger percentage of individuals who do not receive dental care report housing and food insecurity as well as cost barriers to health care compared to those who do receive dental care.

Key Opportunities for Population Health Improvement

What Businesses Can Do

What Healthcare Providers Can Do

  • Collaborate with local dental health care providers for referrals.3
  • Support school-based dental programs or allied dental partnerships.4
  • Join the Health Resources and Services Administration and California HealthCare Foundation in asking the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council to develop a vision for improving oral health care for vulnerable and underserved populations and to recommend ways to achieve this vision.5

3 http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Public%20Programs/Files/ADH%20PDFs/ADA_10_Steps_Medical-Dental_Collab.pdf?la=en
4 http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/policies?search_api_views_fulltext=dental&items_per_page=10
5 https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/tools-resources/evidence-based-resource/improving-access-to-oral-health-care-for-vulnerable-and


What Individuals Can Do

  • Enroll in a dental care plan through the Marketplace.6
  • Visit a local dental clinic that offers services on a sliding-fee scale, such as the Eastside Family Dental Clinic or Goleta Neighborhood Dental Clinic.

6 https://www.healthcare.gov/dental-plan-information-2017/


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