Low-Income Parents' Perceptions of Oral Health and Acceptance of Mid-level Dental Providers.

J Dent Hyg. 2016 Apr;90(2):100-10.



The purpose of this study was to explore low-income parents' perceptions of oral health and of mid-level dental providers as a means of improving access to care. As states increasingly consider adding mid-level providers to the dental workforce, understanding the views of potential patients toward such providers is important, since the success of this strategy will depend, in part, upon the willingness of potential patients to be treated by them.


Because little is known about the social acceptability of mid-level dental providers, the researchers employed a qualitative methodology, conducting in-depth interviews with 20 low-income parents in order to assess their perceptions of oral health, access to and need for dental care, and potential acceptance of mid-level dental providers. Interview transcripts were analyzed by a team of researchers using interpretive research methods.


Respondents' descriptions of experiences with oral health and dental care demonstrate their strong desire to maintain their families' oral health, as well as their perception that they face significant barriers to receiving needed care. The vast majority of respondents expressed positive inclinations toward the introduction of mid-level dental providers, particularly once they understood that such providers would be fully trained professionals. Though in reality the cost to a patient would likely not vary, many respondents expressed increased interest in treatment by mid-level providers if it were less expensive than treatment by dentists, indicating the significant barrier that cost posed for many in the sample.


The low-income parents in this sample would likely seek care from mid-level dental providers if such providers were introduced in the U.S. The success of mid-level providers in meeting the needs of this population would potentially be even greater if public education clearly explained their training and professionalism.


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