Dental Care



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— behaviors such as unhealthy dietary habits and tobacco use.(5)

Lack of regular access to dental care is linked to high health care costs and lost productivity.(6) Improving how often people get dental care can reduce their financial costs by preventing serious disease later on. However, finances are a primary barrier to dental care, as low-income residents 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, aged 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 dental care 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 accuracy of the person surveyed.


Dental care is calculated by the following formula:

Dental Care Formula

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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Years of Collection

Calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2020, 1 year modeled estimate.


  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: February 20, 2024