Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2010

Degree Name

MS (Master of Science)

Degree In

Dental Public Health

First Advisor

Damiano, Peter

First Committee Member

Weber-Gasparoni, Karin

Second Committee Member

Qian, Fang

Third Committee Member

Warren, John


Even though the oral health of Americans has improved greatly in the last 50 years, some specific groups of the population have been left behind. Latinos, children and adults, bear a disproportionate burden of oral diseases. Latino children, the fastest growing minority group of children in the US, are affected disproportionately by oral diseases like dental caries compared to other groups. Understanding the difficulties and barriers that these children have to utilize dental care will help us in the future to develop effective programs to reduce health disparities in this segment of the population.

The purpose of this study is to identify the factors that determine dental services access and utilization by children in the state of Iowa. Emphasis will be given to differences in utilization of dental services among different racial/ethnic groups. Additionally, the study will describe and compare difficulties in utilization of care among Latino children whose parents answered the survey in English (LE) and those who answered it in Spanish (LS). In order to address these objectives existing data from the Iowa Child and Family Household Health Survey 2005 (HHS) were analyzed.

The dependent variable for the study was utilization of dental services. This outcome variable was dichotomized as whether or not the child had a dental visit in the last year. Characteristics of study subjects were first analyzed through descriptive statistics. Bivariate analyses were conducted to assess associations between the dependent variable and independent variables. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with utilization of dental services in Iowa's children, and for each different racial and ethnic group.

Seven factors were related to the time of the last dental visit for Iowa children: Having a regular source of dental care, dental insurance status, having a dental need in the past 12 months, brushing habits, the age of the children, and family income. The same seven factors were correlated to having a dental visit for white children. For African-American children, having a regular source of dental care, dental insurance status, and having a dental need in the last 12 months were the factors that were found associated to the time of the last dental check-up. For the Latino Spanish children, having a regular source of dental care and the age of the children were factors associated to dental utilization. Finally, for the Latino English children, the only factor associated with having a dental visit was having a regular source of dental care.

Information from this research gives policy makers, public health workers, and clinicians an overview of oral health disparities affecting children in the state. For those agencies in Iowa interested in the improvement of access and utilization of dental services for minority children, this project gives important inside about the factors related to the use of services for different racial/ethnic groups in the state.


Access to dental care, Health disparities, Latino children, Utilization of dental services


x, 143 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 138-143).


Copyright 2010 Alejandra Valencia