COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Caring for African-American patients in private practice: disparities and similarities in dental procedures and communication

Kristin A Williams, Catherine A Demko, James A Lalumandier, Stephen Wotman
Journal of the American Dental Association 2008, 139 (9): 1218-26
18762632

UNLABELLED: OBJECTIVE. Disparities in oral health care among racial and low socioeconomic groups have been reported. The authors compared the communication behaviors and dental services to African-American and white patients in private dental offices.

METHODS: and Subjects. The investigators directly observed office visits of 292 black and 1,552 white patients in 64 practices by using standardized checklists for the frequency of services provided and frequency and time of communication behaviors. From patient surveys, they constructed three communication scales and a patient satisfaction score. They examined the effects of provider-patient racial concordance on dental services and observed and perceived communication behaviors by using multiple regression analyses.

RESULTS: Groups of black and white patients had similar demographic characteristics. Dental procedures were similar for black and white patients in offices with white providers. Compared with white patients, black patients with white providers reported lower ratings for how well the dentist knew them (P = .001), but patients' satisfaction with their providers was high and not affected by provider-patient racial concordance. After multivariate adjustment, odds of chatting were significantly lower between black patients and white providers than between racially concordant patients and providers (odds ratio = 0.38; P < .001), whereas odds of negotiation were lower among black patients regardless of the race of the provider.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study sample, the investigators did not observe overt disparities in dental services on the basis of race. They noted that some communication behaviors were influenced by dentist-patient racial concordance, which suggests the possibility of more subtle disparities than usually are considered.

CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: Dental professionals could benefit from understanding their patients' perceptions of a range of interactions that occur during a typical dental visit.

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