New Study Sheds Light on Dental Health of Blacks


A study recently released by the JointCenter for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. has found disparities in the dental health care among African-American males compared with other demographic groups.

Using studies published in the past decade, the authors of the report examined dental care coverage, disease and tooth loss rates along with percentages of black dentists and dental visitations by African-American men.

The report found that 50 percent of black men have untreated dental decay as compared with 28 percent of white men.  Black men also have the highest rate of oral cancer of any demographic group and the lowest survival rate.

In Harlem, 46 percent of African-Americans seniors were found to have missing teeth compared with 22 percent of Latinos.

More than 9.5 billion African-American men, which is about 75 percent of the population are without dental coverage and are not usually eligible for Medicaid.

The report also revealed that fewer than 25 percent of black men have visited a dentist in the past year and there is a shortage of black dentists working in both the inner cities and rural areas.

When asked what steps black males should take to ensure their dental health is up to par, Dr. Ryle Bell, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at Howard’s School of Dentistry said," Easy.  Go to the dentist twice a year.” 

Dr. Bell said that people think that the dentist is going to take their money and therefore find it only necessary to go when they have pain. 

Dr. Bell added that people should clean and brush their teeth twice a day, eat lots of low carbohydrate foods and fruits.

A comparison of recent dental check-ups between black males and females produced even results.

“I don’t even remember the last time I went to the dentist.  I just eat well and floss everyday,” said Messiah Ramkissoon, a junior, public relations major at HowardUniversity.

Sarah St. Louis, a graduate student in the school of medicine, said she does not go to the dentist very often.  “I went to the dentist in June and found out I had a cavity,” said St. Louis.

To alleviate the disparity in dental health care among African-Americans the report calls for more health care benefits to include black men currently uninsured, entice more black dentists into the work force and do more research to illuminate the problem of black dental health.