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Perceived oral health and its association with symptoms of psychological distress, oral status and socio-demographic characteristics among elderly in Norway

Journal article
Authors K. E. Dahl
G. Calogiuri
Birgitta Jönsson
Published in Bmc Oral Health
Volume 18
Issue 93
ISSN 1472-6831
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Odontology, Section 2
Language en
Keywords Ageing, Mental health, Depression, Older adults, Epidemiology, quality-of-life, tooth loss, periodontal-disease, daily performance, norwegian adults, checklist hscl, dental-health, global burden, prevalence, people, Dentistry, Oral Surgery & Medicine
Subject categories Epidemiology, Surgical research, Dentistry


Background: There is poor knowledge about the extent to which psychological distress influences oral health in older people in Norway. The aim of this study was two-fold: i) to describe the oral health of Norwegian elderly and their levels of psychological distress; and ii) to examine the relationship of psychological distress with self-rated oral health, while controlling for oral status and socio-demographic characteristics, in Norwegian elderly. Methods: Data were retrieved from a national cross-sectional survey conducted by Statistics Norway in 2012 and included information about self-rated oral health, psychological distress (measured using the Hopkins Symptom Checklist 25; HSCL-25), gender, age, civil status, smoking, self-reported number of teeth present and dental attendance for 949 non-institutionalised adults aged 65 years or older. Logistic regression was used to establish whether psychological distress predicts self-rated oral health, controlling for socio-demographic characteristics and oral status. Results: Around 27% of the elderly reported having poor oral health, and 8 % had a HSCL-25 mean score >= 1.75, which indicates higher levels of psychological distress. Among the symptoms listed in the HSCL-25, the most frequently reported problems were lack of energy (1.7 +/- 0.8) and difficulties falling and staying asleep (1.6 +/- 0.7). The likelihood of reporting poor oral health was independently associated with having a mean HSCL-25 score >= 1.75 (OR = 1.89; 95% CI = 1.14-3.15), even when smoking (OR = 1.83; 95% CI = 1.17, 2.87) and having fewer than 20 teeth (OR = 3.49; 95% CI = 2.56, 4.76) were taken into account. Conclusion: Most of the Norwegian elderly in our sample perceived themselves to have good oral health and reported relatively low levels of psychological distress. Higher levels of psychological distress can influence the oral health of the elderly independently of other factors such as smoking and having reduced number of teeth. Dental care professionals should consider screening their elderly patients for psychological distress and individualise the information about dental care for this specific population.

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