International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE) Conference edition:9 location:Tallinn, Estonia date:27-29 September 2012
Objective. This study aimed to investigate the social gradient in the oral health status and reported oral-health related behaviour in preschool children. Methods. Questionnaire data were obtained from parents of 1,057 children, or 64% of all children born between October 2003 and July 2004 in two distinct regions of the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. Oral health examinations were performed by trained dentists when the children were three and five years old and dietary habits, oral hygiene habits and dental attendance of the children were measured through structured questionnaires completed by the parents. Maternal educational level, measured in six categories, was used as a proxy of socio-economic status. Logistic and ordinal regressions were applied. Results. A social gradient was observed for tooth decay: children from low-educated mothers had seven times more chance to present with caries compared to mothers with a bachelor degree. However, contrary to expectations, children whose mother had a master degree also had a significant higher chance (OR=3.84, 95% CI=1.08-13.65). Of the low-educated parents, 92% had not yet visited the dentist, compared to 58% of the highest educated group. Brushing the children’s teeth twice a day was performed by 33% of the mothers with a bachelor degree, compared to 21% of mothers with a master degree. Children from the lowest social backgrounds had a significantly lower chance to brush twice a day and a higher chance to consume sugared drinks between meals than children whose mother had a bachelor degree. Conclusion. Children from low socio-economic backgrounds generally had worse oral health and oral health behaviours. However, the social gradient was not fully observed for tooth decay and brushing frequency, as children from the mothers with a bachelor degree performed best. The results suggest that different approaches are required to promote oral health in parents from different educational backgrounds.