Adult oral health inequalities described using area-based and household-based socioeconomic status measures

OBJECTIVES: To describe adult oral health inequalities using an area-based and household-based measure of socioeconomic status (SES). METHODS: Self-report questionnaires (seeking information on sociodemographic, oral health and oral self-care) were sent to a random sample of adults from the Dunedin South Electorate, New Zealand. Household- and area-based SES measures were collected. The main outcome measures were edentulism prevalence, average-poor self-rated oral health and not having visited a dentist for 2+ years. Data were weighted to produce population-based estimates.

RESULTS: The response rate was 78.2%; the sample mean age was 47 years (sd, 17; range 18-92 years) and females comprised 54.0%. Edentulism was most prevalent among those from low-SES households who were resident in high-deprivation areas (P<0.0001). Poor self-rated oral health (P<0.0001) and 2+ years since the last dental visit (P<0.0001) were also most prevalent among these same individuals. In contrast, respondents from high-SES households located in the least deprived areas had the lowest prevalence of edentulism, poor self-reported oral health or 2+ years since their last dental visit. Those from the other household/area SES combinations occupied intermediate positions.

CONCLUSIONS: There may be added value to dental public health in using a dual socio-economic measurement approach to population research, with greater oral health gains perhaps being possible by concentrating resources and clinical effort on people living in low-SES households in highly-deprived areas, rather than those living in low-SES households in areas that are not deprived.

Jamieson LM, Thomson WM

J Public Health Dent 2006;66(2):104-9.

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