Factors associated with health care seeking behaviour for orofacial pain in the general population

T V Macfarlane, A S Blinkhorn, R M Davies, J Kincey, H V Worthington
Community Dental Health 2003, 20 (1): 20-6

OBJECTIVE: To describe the health care seeking behaviour associated with orofacial pain (OFP) and determine factors associated with such behaviour.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional population-based study using postal questionnaires.

PARTICIPANTS: Adults aged 18-64 years from a general medical practice in south-east Cheshire, UK (participation rate 74%).

RESULTS: Of the 2,504 respondents to the questionnaire 646 reported OFP, of whom 555 (86%) indicated whether or not they sought professional help. A total of 255 (46%) responded that they had sought advice. The majority had sought advice from their medical practitioner (57%) or dentist (51%), and 64% had taken medication because of OFP. The likelihood of seeking treatment increased linearly with age (p < 0.001) while gender, education and psychological distress did not show a significant association with seeking treatment. Persons who were regular dental attenders had an increased likelihood of seeking treatment for OFP (RR 1.4; 95% CI 1.1,1.8). Perception of illness had moderate association with healthcare seeking (RR 0.8; 95% CI 0.7,0.96). There was a significant trend of increasing RR with increasing total number of pain symptoms (p < 0.001), frequency of pain, duration of pain episodes, pain intensity and disability associated with pain. Participants who reported pain duration of more than three months had almost double the likelihood (RR 1.8; 95% CI 1.4,2.3) of seeking treatment. Decrease in self-reported control over pain and ability to decrease pain were both associated with an increased likelihood of seeking professional care (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: The strongest predictors of health care seeking behaviour were different characteristics of pain.

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