Disability weights for the burden of oral disease in South Australia

BACKGROUND: Australian burden of disease estimates appeared inconsistent with the reported repetitive and ubiquitous nature of dental problems. The aims of the study were to measure the nature, severity and duration of symptoms for specific oral conditions, and calculate disability weights from these measures.

METHODS: Data were collected in 2001-02 from a random sample of South Australian dentists using mailed self-complete questionnaires. Dentists recorded the diagnosis of dental problems and provided patients with self-complete questionnaires to record the nature, severity and duration of symptoms using the EuroQol instrument. Data were available from 378 dentists (response rate = 60%).

RESULTS: Disability weights were highest for pulpal infection (0.069), caries (0.044) and dentinal sensitivity (0.040), followed by denture problems (0.026), periodontal disease (0.023), failed restorations (0.019), tooth fractures (0.014) and tooth wear (0.011). Aesthetic problems had a low disability weight (0.002), and both recall/maintenance care and oral hygiene had adjusted weights of zero. CONCLUSIONS: Disability weights for caries (0.044), periodontal disease (0.023) and denture problems (0.026) in this study were higher than comparable oral health conditions in the Australian Burden of Disease and Injury Study (0.005 for caries involving a filling and 0.014 for caries involving an extraction, 0.007 for periodontal disease, and 0.004 for edentulism). A range of common problems such as pulpal infection, failed restorations and tooth fracture that were not included in the Australian Burden of Disease and Injury Study had relatively high disability weights. The inclusion of a fuller range of oral health problems along with revised disability weights would result in oral health accounting for a larger amount of disability than originally estimated.

Brennan DS, Spencer AJ.

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Popul Health Metr. 2004 Sep 3;2(1):7.

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