Dental Care


Years of Collection:

Why do we measure dental care?

Dental care helps us understand how well people can access preventive health services, and oral health provides a window into overall health.(1) Regular dental care is essential to detect oral diseases early. Several health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, are strongly linked to poor oral health.(2-4) This may be explained by common risk factors, such as unhealthy dietary habits and tobacco use.(5)

Lack of regular access to dental care is linked to high healthcare costs and lost productivity.(6) Increasing the frequency with which people get dental care can reduce their financial costs by preventing serious disease. However, finances are a primary barrier to dental care, as residents with low income and those without dental insurance are less likely to access dental care services.(7,8)

How do we measure dental care?

This metric includes adults 18 or older who report visiting a dentist or dental clinic in the past year. 

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

The dental care metric is a simple way to capture the extent to which adults get regular preventive dental care services to protect themselves from oral diseases and ensure oral health.(1)

The metric also represents accessibility of dental services.

This metric only measures dental care use for adults—there are different reported trends for children.(7)

The metric is self-reported and depends on the accurate reporting of the person surveyed.


Dental care is calculated by the following formula:

Dental care = [Respondents with a dental visit in past year]/Total respondents x 100%  

This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from one year modeled PLACES Project Data (formerly 500 Cities Project)from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 


  1. Wall TP, Vujicic M, Nasseh K. Recent trends in the utilization of dental care in the United States. Journal of dental education. 2012;76(8):1020-1027.

  2. Teeuw WJ, Gerdes VE, Loos BG. Effect of periodontal treatment on glycemic control of diabetic patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes care. 2010;33(2):421-427.

  3. Tavares M, Lindefjeld Calabi KA, San Martin L. Systemic diseases and oral health. Dental clinics of North America. 2014;58(4):797-814.

  4. Fitzpatrick SG, Katz J. The association between periodontal disease and cancer: a review of the literature. Journal of dentistry. 2010;38(2):83-95.

  5. Petersen PE, Bourgeois D, Ogawa H, Estupinan-Day S, Ndiaye C. The global burden of oral diseases and risks to oral health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2005;83(9):661-669.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health Basics. October 8, 2015.  Accessed February 16, 2018.

  7. Vujicic M, Nasseh K. A decade in dental care utilization among adults and children (2001-2010). Health services research. 2014;49(2):460-480.

  8. Locker D, Maggirias J, Quinonez C. Income, dental insurance coverage, and financial barriers to dental care among Canadian adults. Journal of public health dentistry. 2011;71(4):327-334.

Last updated: January 24, 2023