The Association of Individual Characteristics and Neighborhood Poverty on the Dental Care of American Adolescents

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which neighborhood poverty was associated with the utilization of dental care by American adolescents.

Methods: To accomplish the study goals we conducted multilevel modeling analyses of two nationally representative data sets: National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K).

Results: As hypothesized, neighborhood poverty predicted frequency of dental care in both studies (t = 6.06; P < 0.001; t = 2.44; P < 0.05). Even after accounting for individual level predictors such as household income, health insurance, and parental education, adolescents living in poor neighborhoods are less likely than their counterparts in non-poor neighborhoods to utilize dental care.

Conclusions: The findings from this study indicate that neighborhoods influence dental care utilization patterns in adolescents.