Socioeconomic Gradients in Preventive Dental Health Behaviours

Social gradients in oral disease and self-reported oral health have been documented among Australian adults. The poorer oral health of lower socioeconomic position adults is frequently attributed to poorer performance of preventive dental health behaviours. However, whether such behaviours show similar social gradients has not been extensively researched. The aim of this study was to document oral hygiene practices among Australian adults and to examine their association with socioeconomic position. Self-reported data were obtained from a national stratified random sample of adults aged 18+ who participated in the 2002 National Dental Telephone Interview Survey and completed the subsequent mailed SIRC questionnaire. Analysis was restricted to some 2745 dentate adults. Most adults, 93%, brushed their teeth at least once per day. Some form of interdental cleaning was practised by half of the adults, while mouthrinsing and chewing sugar-free gum were practised by less than one third. After controlling for age and sex, the number of times per week teeth were brushed was significantly associated with education and income, but times per week for interdental cleaning, mouthrinsing and use of sugar-free gum were not associated with these socioeconomic measures (ANOVA; p<0.05). Toothbrushing may be more a learned social or sensory behaviour than the preventive orientation of the other oral hygiene practices. Other factors, such as risk behaviours and psychosocial impact of living circumstances, must play a greater role in determining social gradients in oral health. Supported by AIHW and the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

AJ Spencer*, AE Sanders, J Stewart, K Carter

Presented at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the IADR (ANZ Division), 28 September – 1 October 2003, Melbourne, Australia

Note: * indicates presenter

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