Area-based socio-economic status and child oral health in South Australia

Introduction: Socio-economic status (SES) has been shown to be related to both general health and oral health. Most studies investigating SES have examined individual-level determinants however there has been a growing trend in the use of area-based SES measures.

Objectives: The current study aimed to examine the relationship between oral health and a number of area-based SES measures collected as part of the 2001 Australian national census. Traditionally, the SES measures are combined into a socio-economic index for areas (SEIFA) however this approach conceals possible differences between specific SES measures.

Methods: Oral health data were electronically captured for children enrolled in the South Australian School Dental Service in 2001 while SES measures for the same year were extracted from Basic Community Profiles for postcodes available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Results: Examination data was obtained on 60,444 4-17-year-old children with a known place of residence. There were consistent linear relationships between oral health and socio-economic status with children having poorer oral health residing in areas of greater socio-economic disadvantage. This was evident across all SES measures.

Conclusions: There exists pervasive social inequality in child oral health in South Australia and specific area-based measures of socio-economic status are valuable in documenting these inequalities.

Armfield JM*

Presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of the ANZ Division of the IADR, 25-28 September 2005, Queenstown, New Zealand

Note: * indicates presenter

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