Dentist Supply, Access to Dental Care, and Oral Health Among Rural and Urban Residents: A National Study

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2008
Project completed:
May 2015
Rural populations have fewer dentists, lower dental care utilization, and a greater burden of dental illness than urban populations, yet relationships between dentist supply, utilization, and oral health are not well understood.

This study will determine whether shortages of dentists in rural and urban areas of the U.S. are associated with impaired access to dental care and a higher prevalence of dental disease. We will use detailed dentist supply data from the American Dental Association Dentist Masterfile and 2006 survey data from the nationally-representative Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We will characterize these relationships by overall rural vs. urban location and a 4-level, rural-urban grouping. We will evaluate the impact of dentist supply on high-risk groups (seniors; those with low socioeconomic status; racial/ethnic minority groups; persons without health insurance).

We will explore whether lower levels of dental care utilization and higher levels of permanent tooth loss among rural adults are associated with a lack of dentists and the extent to which sociodemographics and health status affect these relationships. Products will be a Final Report and Policy Brief on the WWAMI RHRC website. Findings will be presented at local, regional and national conferences and submitted for refereed publication.


  • Dentist Supply, Dental Care Utilization, and Oral Health Among Rural and Urban U.S. Residents
    WWAMI Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 05/2015
    Residents of non-metropolitan counties were less likely than those in metropolitan counties to report having dental visits or teeth cleanings in the last year and more likely to report undergoing tooth extractions. These findings persisted even when controlling for demographic factors, income, insurance, and health/smoking status.