The social impact of dental problems and visits.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES The purpose of this analysis was to assess selected social consequences of maintaining oral health and treating oral diseases. The associations among socioeconomic and demographic factors with time lost from work or school and reductions in normal activities are explored. METHODS Data were gathered as part of the 1989 National Health Interview Survey from 50,000 US households (117,000 individuals), representing 240 million persons. The oral health care supplement was analyzed using the software SUDAAN to produce standard errors for estimates based on complex multistage sample designs. RESULTS Because of dental visits or problems, 148,000 hours of work were lost per 100,000 workers, 117,000 hours of school were lost per 100,000 school-age children, and 17,000 activity days beyond work and school time were restricted per 100,000 individuals in 1989. Exploratory analyses suggest that sociodemographic groups have different patterns of such time loss and of reduced normal activities. CONCLUSIONS Overall, there is low social impact individually from dental visits and oral conditions. At the societal level, however, such problems and treatments among disadvantaged groups appear to have a greater impact.

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