Self-perceived oral health in adolescents associated with family characteristics and parental employment status

A L Ostberg, U Lindblad, A Halling
Community Dental Health 2003, 20 (3): 159-64

OBJECTIVE: To investigate self-perceived oral health and its associations with family characteristics and parental employment status in an adolescent population from a gender perspective.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional study using self-reported questionnaires answered anonymously in classrooms.

SETTING: All senior (13-15 years) and upper secondary (16-18 years) level schools in Skaraborg County, Sweden.

SUBJECTS: 17,035 students, participation rate 88.5%.

OUTCOME MEASURES: A single-item rating of self-perceived oral health; satisfaction with the appearance of the teeth; self-assessed gingival bleeding; a perceived oral health index.

RESULTS: Independent of family characteristics and parental employment status, girls, more often than boys, perceived their oral health to be good and had less self-assessed gingival bleeding but were less satisfied with the appearance of their teeth. Adolescents living with a single mother (senior level odds ratios OR 0.71 [Confidence Interval CI 0.59,0.84], upper secondary level OR 0.76 [CI 0.62,0.92]) or with neither parent were less likely to perceive their oral health as good when single-item rated and reported more gingival bleeding (living with a single mother: senior level OR 1.37 [CI], upper secondary level OR 1.51 [CI 1.28,1.77]) than those who lived with both parents, while adolescents who lived with a single father did not. Associations between parental employment status and self-perceived oral health were weak and inconsistent.

CONCLUSIONS: Family characteristics were important for adolescents' self-perceived oral health while parental employment status was not. Children living in single-parent households should be supported and recognised in strategies for oral health promotion and prevention. Gender differences should also be taken into consideration.

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