Dental attitudes: Proximal basis for oral health disparities in adults

Academic Article


  • Objectives: Behavioral science postulates that underlying characteristics of populations, rather than sociodemographic groupings, are more proximal causes of oral health disparities through differing oral health behaviors. To our knowledge this is the first report in the literature that examines longitudinal correlates of oral health and dental care using groups of persons holding similar attitudes and beliefs. Methods: The subjects were 873 participants in the Florida Dental Care Study, a longitudinal study of oral health among dentate adults. Hierarchical cluster analysis identified four groups with similar dental attitudes that were labeled 'favorable attitudes about dental care', 'frustrated believers in dental care', 'negative attitudes and cost concerns', 'pessimistic about personal and professional oral care'. Results: The attitudinal groups cut across race, sex, and age with race and educational status the best discriminators among sociodemographic and economic variables. The negative attitude group reported the least preventive care and the largest oral health decrements on clinical examination at baseline and 24 months. The group with favorable attitudes about dental care reported the highest number of preventive and restorative visits and the lowest point-prevalence of toothache pain, temperature sensitivity, and painful gums. The frustrated believers have access to dental care equivalent to the favorable attitude group, but may delay seeking dental care until oral disease becomes more severe, based on their pattern of preventive, restorative, and dental extraction visits. Additional group differences on oral health and dental care are reported. Conclusion: This study takes a novel approach to examining oral healthy disparities. Differences in oral health behaviors support the validity of the groups. © Blackwell Munksgaard, 2006.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Riley JL; Gilbert GH; Heft MW
  • Start Page

  • 289
  • End Page

  • 298
  • Volume

  • 34
  • Issue

  • 4