2009 Volume 218 Issue 3 Pages 241-249
Oral health care is not only an effective strategy for the prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment of orofacial disease and disorders, but also an essential component of general health promotion programs. The current study aimed to identify the determinants of the utilization of dental services in an elderly population in Japan. A community-based comprehensive geriatric assessment, including the measurements of physical, mental, and social functioning, was conducted among elderly people aged ≥ 70 years residing in a suburban area of Sendai, Japan. Oral health status and functioning, their impact on the quality of life, and dental utilization were also surveyed. Of the 1,170 participants, 418 subjects who had specific treatment needs for dental problems and reported irregular dental attendance were recommended a dental visit, and 1 year later, their compliance with the recommendation was assessed by using questionnaire. Multiple logistic regression analysis demonstrated that a higher number of remaining teeth and the use of removable dentures were significant predictors of dental utilization within 1 year. Regular utilization was associated with a higher number of remaining teeth, younger age, presence of systemic disease, absence of depressive symptoms, and higher educational attainment. Conversely, non-compliance with the treatment recommendations was associated with fewer remaining teeth, smoking, and non-utilization of dental services during the previous year. The differences in the determinants of dental attendance behavior, which may be partially associated with the insurance coverage for dental services, suggest the need for specific strategies for oral health promotion for different behavior of dental utilization.