Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


Allied Health

Document Type



Despite efforts to improve oral health, untreated childhood tooth decay continues to be a major concern in the state of Kentucky. It is said that an estimated 42.8 percent of children in Kentucky suffer from early childhood caries (ECC) before the age of five and 39.3 percent of these children have never been in a dental office (The Kentucky Oral Health Summit). Another study conducted revealed that approximately 20 percent of preschoolers, 50 percent of second graders and 75 percent of 15 years olds are affected by untreated tooth decay (Kentucky’s Dental Access Summit, 2013). What are the major issues influencing these severe statistics? Factors typically cited include living in rural areas and/or not having insurance, both which may result in a lack of access to dental care.

In order to collect the data, the researcher used the records of the Western Kentucky University Mobile Dental Unit to assess the area of residence of fifteen patients, whether or not they have insurance, and if there is a presence of dental decay. From these data the researcher then determined if there is a correlation between rural conditions and lack of access to care in relation to untreated tooth decay.

After analyzing the data collected, it was evident in this particular study that urban and rural areas had nearly the same DMF scores, which would indicate similar access to care. These results are contrary to what has been reported in the literature; that rural areas have higher DMF scores, lower rates of insurance and less access to care. The significance of the results may indicate that mobile units in the Kentucky area are improving access to care.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Lynn Austin


Dental Public Health and Education | Dentistry