Public knowledge of the prevention of dental decay and gum diseases

In 1992, a mail survey was conducted among South Australians aged 10 years and older to assess the knowledge of prevention of dental caries and gum diseases and to explore its variation by sociodemographic factors. The survey provided 838 completed questionnaires. Questions were asked on perceptions of importance of a number of preventive measures, the main purpose of water fluoridation and sources of information. Respondents rated four myths for preventing dental caries as the most important: 97 per cent rated regular tooth brushing; 87 per cent rated regular dental visits; 85 per cent rated calcium in the diet; and 78 per cent rated eating fibrous foods as definitely or probably important. Only 56 per cent of respondents rated drinking water with fluoride as definitely or probably important for preventing dental caries, and only half (50.2 per cent) identified the main purpose of water fluoridation as the prevention of decay. Respondents rated regular tooth brushing (96 per cent) and regular dental visits (87 per cent) as important for the prevention of gum diseases. However, the myth of massaging the gums was rated as important by 67 per cent. Higher percentages of females, older adults and those with lower educational attainment rated the myths for preventing caries as important. Younger people were less able to specify the main purpose for fluoridation of water supplies. The persistence of myths and the low rating of the importance of scientifically efficacious measures are major challenges for oral health promotion.

Roberts-Thomson KF, Spencer AJ

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Australian Dental Journal. 1999 Dec; 44(4): 253-8
Published by theĀ Australian Dental Association

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