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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Says More Efforts Needed to Address Dental Care Disparities

African Americans are less likely than Whites to have tooth-preserving root canals instead of tooth extractions, indicating the need for more efforts to address disparities in dental care, according to a new Veterans Health Administration study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.

The study, published online in the journal Medical Care, looked at dental records of more than 71,000 veterans who had at least one tooth extraction or root canal therapy (RCT) visit in fiscal year 2011. Root canals are the preferred treatment for diseased or damaged teeth because they save the tooth by removing only the root.

The study found that black patients had the lowest rate of root canals — even when they had the greatest access to dental care. Asian patients had the highest rate of RCT.

“Despite efforts to improve equity, our results replicate earlier findings from more than a decade ago, showing that Black patients in the VA system had significantly less likelihood of obtaining this restorative dental procedure compared with white patients,” says lead author Dr. Ulrike Boehmer, associate professor of community health sciences.

“This suggests that generic efforts to address racial and ethnic disparities in VA dental care are insufficient, and that more comprehensive and targeted efforts are needed to ensure equity for all.”

To read more about the study, go to: