Self-care behaviors are common and can act as substitutes for or supplements to formal health care services. We tested the hypothesis that problem-oriented dental attenders (POAs) report more dental self-care behaviors than do regular dental attenders (RAs), presumably as a substitute for professional care. The Florida Dental Care Study is a longitudinal cohort study of changes in oral health, in which we measured dental self-care behaviors related to three common dental problems: toothache pain, bleeding gums, and tooth loss. Despite using less dental care, POAs were less likely to report quot;conventional" methods as means to prevent the three dental problems; however, they were more likely to report that homemade remedies, topical medications, or mouthwashes were ways to prevent or treat these problems. POAs were also more likely to believe that "nothing can be done" to prevent these problems. Additionally, POAs had more negative dental attitudes, used less dental care during follow-up, had more dental disease, were the only persons who extracted at least one of their own teeth, and were more likely to use tobacco. With the exception of dental self-extractions, no single self-care belief or behavior distinguished POAs from RAs, nor were POAs likely to have different explanations for dental problems. Instead, the pattern was one of modest differences on a number of items. Although POAs use less dental care, they do not compensate by employing more "conventional"dental self-care behaviors, but report being more likely to employ "unconventional" behaviors. They also are more likely to believe that nothing can be done to prevent dental problems.