For the study, researchers analyzed telephone survey data collected from nearly 650,000 middle-aged and older adults between 1999 and 2008. The investigators found that the number who received preventive dental care increased during that time.
However, 23 percent to 43 percent of Americans did not receive preventive dental care in 2008, depending on race or ethnicity. Rates of preventive care were 77 percent for Asian Americans, 76 percent for whites, 62 percent for Hispanics and Native Americans, and 57 percent for blacks, the results showed.
The study was published online Dec. 17 in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
Factors such as income, education and having health insurance explained the differences in access to preventive dental care among whites and other racial groups except blacks, according to a journal news release.
The lower rate of preventive dental care among blacks may be due to a lack of awareness about dental health and dental care services, and to an inadequate number of culturally competent dental care professionals, suggested Bei Wu, a professor and director for international research at Duke University's School of Nursing, and colleagues.
Many Native Americans who live on reservations don't receive proper dental care, partly because too few dental care professionals choose to work for the Indian Health Services, the researchers pointed out in the news release.
The investigators also found that people with health insurance were 138 percent more likely to receive preventive dental care than those without insurance. Women were one-third more likely to get preventive dental care than men.
Smokers were also less likely to receive preventive dental care, which is of particular concern because tobacco use is a threat to oral health, the researchers noted.
The findings demonstrate the need to develop public dental health programs that target middle-aged and older Americans, improve access to dental care, and create a dental workforce that is culturally competent, the study authors said.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about dental health.