Date of Conferral
Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
Access to oral health care remains problematic for millions of Americans. Factors such as socioeconomic status, age, race, and lack of dental insurance benefits inhibit the ability of many to obtain preventative oral health care. The aim of this study was to explore the effect of preventive oral health treatment and education at reduced-fee dental hygiene facilities on the oral health behaviors and perceptions of socioeconomically deprived persons within the state of Georgia. This study was based on the health belief model constructs. A convenience sample of 102 participants was recruited from the individuals who visited two dental hygiene colleges to seek treatment for the first time. The independent variable was the receipt of reduced-fee dental hygiene treatment/education. The dependent variables were the oral health perceptions and behaviors of socioeconomically deprived persons, as well as the perceptions and behaviors of patients provided with a referral for follow-up treatment with a dentist. Mediating variables were sex, age, race, and socioeconomic status. Wilcoxon Signed Rank test and logistic regression were applied to detect potential differences in the dependent variables before and after treatment. The most significant changes were found in categories dealing with self-efficacy measures that patients could take to improve their own oral health. Also, the oral health behaviors and perceptions of younger, African-American of low educational and financial background were significantly more improved after treatment. The social change implication of this research may be that oral health practitioners can use these results to create preventative interventions more tailored for socioeconomically deprived persons who face complicated oral health issues.