Objectives: This study examined the behavioral impact of toothache pain as well as self-care strategies for pain relief among minority and low-income individuals.
Methods: Eight focus group sessions were conducted with 66 participants drawn from low-income non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic adults over the age of 20 who had experienced a toothache during the previous 12-month period and who had utilized self-care or care from a nondentist.
Results: Toothache pain was described as intense, throbbing, miserable, or unbearable. Focus group participants indicated that toothache pain affected their ability to perform normal activities, such as their job, housework, social activities, sleeping, talking, and eating, as well as making them depressed and affecting their social interactions. Numerous prescription and nonprescription medications as well as home remedies and self-care strategies were used for pain relief, although these were generally of limited and uncertain benefit. While receiving care at a dental office was the most preferable option for care, most participants reported multiple barriers, including the cost of dental care that resulted in long delays in seeking dental care. The main reason for eventually seeking dental care was the severity of the pain.
Conclusions: Although removing financial barriers alone may not lead to preventive dental visits, it would facilitate more timely visits to dentists to treat toothache pain.