Why do poor adults rate their oral health poorly?

BACKGROUND: The reasons why socioeconomic circumstances are associated with oral health are not well understood. This study investigated whether psychosocial factors might play an explanatory role.

METHODS: Cross-sectional survey data were used from the 1999 National Dental Telephone Interview Survey together with information from an accompanying questionnaire sent to adult interviewees. Household income and self-rated oral health were assessed with single items and life dissatisfaction, personal constraint and perceived stress were evaluated with standard psychometric scales. Bivariate associations were tested using chi-square and ANOVA and odds ratios estimated for low self-rated oral health using logistic regression.

RESULTS: Response to the questionnaire was 64.6 per cent and analysis was limited to dentate adults (n = 3678). Low household income was positively associated with low self-rated oral health. Higher dissatisfaction with life, personal constraint and perceived stress scores were associated with low income and with low self-rated oral health. After adjusting for gender, age, income and missing teeth, adults with high personal constraint scores had greater odds of low self-rated oral health (OR 1.26; 1.10-1.43) as had adults with higher perceived stress scores (OR 1.69; 1.34-2.13).

CONCLUSION: Psychosocial factors are important in understanding pathways between socioeconomic position and oral health status.

Sanders AE, Spencer AJ.

Aust Dent J. 2005 Sep;50(3):161-7.

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