J Korean Acad Oral Health.  2012 Mar;36(1):73-81.

The reason of unmet dental need related socioeconomic status in Korea: Using the 4th Korea National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey

  • 1Department of Dental Hygiene, The Graduate School, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Dental Hygiene, Wonju College of Medicine, Yonsei University, Wonju, Korea. nami71@yonsei.ac.kr


This study aims to examine the possible reasons of unmet dental need, considering the relationship between the socioeconomic and oral health status in Korea.
The study was designed as a cross-sectional study, using the data of the 4th Korea National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. The samples were selected with a stratified clusters sampling method. The subjects were 8,808 out of 23,478 people, which participated in the health examination survey and the oral examination. Statistical analysis was conducted using SPSS18.0, according to complex sampling design. 26 variables reflecting demographic, social and economic characteristics, and an oral health status, were all examined for a complex sampling frequency analysis. Further, their distributional differences were confirmed by chi-square analysis.
About 40% of the subjects failed to receive dental treatment when it was required. 'Financial burden' was the main reason, with the percentage of 39.1%, followed by 'busy with school or work' (22.4%), 'lower on the priority scale' (15.2%) and 'fear of dental treatment' (12.1%). 'Other reasons' were 5.9%. In addition to this, 2.9% of the subjects stated 'there was no one to help with their children', 1.6% was 'dental clinics were too far to go' and 0.8% was due to 'poor mobility and other health problems'. It was observed that younger than 6 years old, especially, seemed to have a high level of fear of dental treatment. The students due to school and the elderly were concerned with financial burden. Moreover, low-level educated and low-level income, also have their financial problems as the main reason. On the other hand, highly educated and those that were better-off, financially, were 'busy with school or work' as the main reason.
The primary reason for unmet dental need was the financial burden in Korea. Also, it was confirmed that there were various reasons, according to the demographic, social and economic characteristics, such as their age, education levels and incomes, rather than oral health status.


Access to dental care; Economic burden; KNHANES IV; Sampling complexity; Socioeconomic; Unmet dental need
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