Dental Service and Resource Needs During COVID-19 Among Underserved Populations

Alexandria, VA, USA — In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many dental services were restricted to urgent and emergency cases. The paper “Dental Service and Resource Needs During COVID-19 among Underserved Populations,” published in the JDR Clinical & Translational Research (JDR CTR), sought to understand how the curtailment of oral health services has impacted underserved populations who already often have limited access to dental care due to cost, fear, stigma, and discrimination.

Dental services in British Columbia, Canada, were restricted to urgent and emergency cases only between March 16, 2020 through May 18, 2020. To explore the experiences of underserved populations and their community organizations when accessing oral health services and information, researchers at The University of British Columbia conducted semi-structured, remote interviews with 13 staff and 18 members from six community-based organizations. These organizations serve men and women with a history of incarceration and/or experiencing poverty and homelessness, persons living with HIV/AIDS, adults living with mental illness, and older adults in long-term care facilities. The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and coded for emerging themes using NVivo® 12 software, and thematic analysis was performed.

Researchers found that the pandemic raised concerns and hesitancy among underserved populations that further reduced access to care. In turn, those with unmet dental needs resorted to coping mechanisms including turning to community support or primary care, self-management of dental issues, and not dealing with dental issues altogether.

Community organizers and members outlined the resources needed, such as assistance navigating the dental care system, having a contact for dental-related questions, and member preparation for dental service changes, while emphasizing the importance of positive relationships with dental providers.

“Underserved populations who already face barriers to oral health care services experienced increased difficulty in addressing their oral health needs and concerns during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said JDR CTR Editor-in-Chief Jocelyne S. Feine, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada. “More strategies aimed at reaching out to this population and those who support them are needed to help mitigate negative coping strategies that deepen oral health disparities."

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About the JDR Clinical & Translational Research
The JDR Clinical & Translational Research is a quarterly publication. This peer-reviewed journal is dedicated to publishing original dental, oral and craniofacial research at the interface between discovery science and clinical application with the translation of research into healthcare delivery systems at the individual patient, clinical practice and community levels. The JDR CTR has been accepted for inclusion in MEDLINE. Follow the JDR CTR on Twitter @JDRClinTransRes.

About IADR

The International Association for Dental Research (IADR) is a nonprofit organization with over 10,000 individual members worldwide, with a mission to drive dental, oral and craniofacial research for health and well-being worldwide. To learn more, visit www.iadr.org.


The American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (AADOCR) is a nonprofit organization with over 3,000 members in the United States and is the largest division of the International Association for Dental Research. The AADOCR and IADR jointly own the Journal of Dental Research. Learn more at www.aadocr.org.