Food Security and Unmet Dental Care Needs in Adults in the United States

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Purpose: Low food security is potentially related to poor dental health and unmet dental care needs. Food security has become a significant public health concern in the United States (U.S.) since the Great Recession beginning in 2007. The purpose of this study is to determine the association between low food security and unmet dental care need in adults in the U.S. Methods: A cross-sectional design with data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011-2012 was used for the study to measure unmet dental care need. The study population included 4,845 adults, ages 20 years and above. Chi square tests and logistic regressions were conducted for the statistical analysis. Results: Overall, 47% of participants had unmet dental care need and 16% were found to have low food security. A higher percentage of adults with low food security had unmet dental care need (70.0% vs. 41.0%; p < .000) as compared to adults with full food security. In adjusted analysis, adults with low food security were more likely to have unmet dental care need as compared to participants with full food security (Adjusted Odds Ratio, 1.58 [95% CI: 1.18, 2.12; p <.01]). Conclusions: A significant association between low food security and unmet dental care need was identified among adults in the United States. Dental professionals routinely provide community educational programs and regularly query patients about food intake due to its impact on oral and overall health. It is important for dental professionals to be able to discuss community food resource options or refer patients to social service providers to assist individuals with low food security