Exploring socioeconomic disparities in self-reported oral health among adolescents in california

Journal Article

By: C.; Coulter Telford, I.; Murray, L.
Publication Name: J Am Dent Assoc
Year: 2011

BACKGROUND: Socioeconomic factors are associated with disparities in oral health among adolescents; however, the underlying reasons are not clear. The authors conducted a study to determine if known indicators of oral health can explain such disparities. METHODS: The authors examined data from a 2007 California Health Interview Survey of adolescents. The outcome of interest was self-reported condition of the teeth; covariates were socioeconomic status (SES) (that is, family poverty level and parental education) and a range of other variables representing health-influencing behaviors, dental care and other social factors. The authors conducted analyses by using logistic regression to explain disparities in self-reported condition of the teeth associated with SES. RESULTS: The authors found that socioeconomic disparities decreased substantially after they added all potential explanatory variables to the model, leaving poverty level as the only variable associated with differences in the self-reported condition of the teeth. Adolescents living below the federal poverty guidelines were more likely to report that the condition of their teeth was fair or poor than were adolescents who were least poor (odds ratio = 1.58; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.04-2.41). In multivariate analyses, further oral health disparities existed in relation to behaviors that influence health, social environment and dental care. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study showed that a number of factors decreased, but did not eliminate, the observed relationship between SES and oral health in Californian adolescents. Most of these explanatory factors are modifiable, indicating that socioeconomic differences associated with oral health among adolescents may be amenable to change. Practice Implications. By promoting a healthy lifestyle (including healthy diet, exercise and regular dental attendance) and conveying to patients in languages other than English how to maintain oral health, dentists may be able to ameliorate the effects of socioeconomic disparities in oral health.

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