OBJECTIVE: To determine if psychosocial factors explain the socioeconomic disparities in self-perceived oral health that persist after controlling for oral status variables.
METHODS: Data came from the participants in the Canadian Community Health Survey 2003 who were residents in the city of Toronto. Oral health variables included self-rated oral health, a 13-item oral health scale, denture wearing, and having a tooth extracted in the previous year. The last two measures were regarded as proxy indicators of tooth loss. Psychosocial variables included a self-esteem scale, a depression scale, and single items measuring life satisfaction, life stress, and sense of cohesion. Socioeconomic status was assessed using total annual household income.
RESULTS: Interviews were completed with 2,754 dentate persons aged 20 years and over. Bivariate analyses confirmed that there were income gradients in self-rated oral health and scores on the oral health scale. Linear regression analyses confirmed that these persisted after controlling for age, gender, denture wearing, and having a tooth extracted in the previous year. In the model predicting self-rated oral health self-esteem, life satisfaction, stress, a sense of cohesion, and depression also contributed to the model, increased its explanatory power, and reduced the strength of but did not eliminate the association between income and self-rated oral health. Broadly, similar results were obtained when the oral health scale score was used as the dependent variable. In both analyses and all models, denture wearing had the strongest and most enduring effect.
CONCLUSION: Psychosocial factors partly but do not wholly explain the socioeconomic disparities in self-perceived oral health in this population after controlling for tooth loss and denture wearing. Other variables need to be added to the models to increase their explanatory power.