Dental Fear and Delayed Dental Care in Appalachia-West Virginia


R C. Wiener

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Purpose—The people of Appalachia-West Virginia are culturally unique and are known to have oral health disparities. The purpose of this study was to evaluate dental fear in relation to delayed dental care as a factor influencing oral health behaviors within this culture. Methods—A cross sectional study design was used. Participants were urgent care patients in a university dental clinic. The sample included 140 adults over age 18 years. The Dental Fear Survey was used to determine dental fear level. Self-report of delayed dental care was provided by the participants. The Dental Fear Survey was dichotomized at score 33, with higher scores indicating dental fear. Results—The prevalence of dental fear was 47.1% (n=66). There was a significant association of dental fear and dental delay. The unadjusted odds ratio was 2.87 (95% CI: 1.17, 7.04; p=0.021). The adjusted odds ratio was 3.83 (95%CI: 1.14, 12.82; p=0.030), controlling for tobacco use, perceived oral health status, pain, and last dental visit. A difference in dental delay between men and women was not present in this sample. The only significant variable in delayed dental care was dental fear. Conclusion—In Appalachia-West Virginia , there remains a high level of dental fear, despite advances in dental care, techniques, and procedures.