Dental Tribune America

Seniors’ perception of oral health affects treatment seeking, study says

By Dental Tribune International
October 09, 2019

CLEVELAND, U.S.: Dental Tribune International recently reported on an article that highlighted the significance of oral health for systematic health and demonstrated how this relationship becomes more critical with age. Now, a new study has examined how older adults perceive the importance of their own oral health and has found that a person’s perception of dental care may affect whether he or she decides to seek treatment. The results suggest that restructuring elderly people’s perception of the importance of dental conditions could help prevent edentulism and improve oral health-related quality of life.

The research was carried out at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine. The researchers surveyed 198 residents aged 62 and older from 16 senior housing facilities in Northeast Ohio. They then assessed the cognitive and emotional representation of the participants’ dental conditions through a questionnaire that included 43 questions related to oral health illness perception. In addition, the researchers collected information on the participants’ demographics, the perceived condition of their teeth and gingivae, depression, social support and oral health-related quality of life. The participants were then examined for any missing teeth, the presence of coronal and root caries, and periodontitis.

In the study, the researchers developed a new questionnaire based on the Common-Sense Model of Self-Regulation, which helps describe a person’s perception of chronic issues. This new integrated Illness Perception Questionnaire Revised for Dental Use in Older/Elder Adults was developed for single and multiple dental conditions. “First, we wanted to develop a new survey instrument that can measure seniors’ perception of oral diseases,” said lead author Prof. Suchitra Nelson, Assistant Dean for Clinical and Translational Research in the Department of Community Dentistry at the school. “Once we can measure this, then we can design behavioral interventions to see if they seek treatment.”

The study found that the participants had a skewed perception of oral health that was associated with a lower quality of life. “We speculate that if seniors value dental care, they’ll seek it out,” Nelson noted. “Barriers—such as cost, transportation and other medical issues—should not interfere if beliefs about the importance of dental care are high enough,” she concluded.

Demographic factors, such as race, marital status, housing and level of education, were not significant. The researchers noted that the model used in the study could serve as a means to design behavioral interventions to help change seniors’ perceptions about their oral health.

The study, titled “The psychometric properties of a new oral health illness perception measure for adults aged 62 years and older,” was published online on April 10, 2019, in PLOS ONE.

The article mentioned in the introduction can be found here.

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