Objective: To determine the risk factors associated with tooth loss between the ages of 18 and 26.
Methods: Dental examinations at ages 18 and 26 were conducted on Study members in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, and sociodemographic and dental service use data were collected using a self-report questionnaire. At age 15, an estimate of socio-economic status (SES) for each Study member had been obtained by classifying the occupation of the male parent. A case of tooth loss was defined as an individual who had lost one or more teeth (excluding third molars) due to caries between ages 18 and 26. Logistic regression and Poisson analysis were used to model the occurrence of tooth loss.
Results: Among the 821 study members who were examined at both ages, one or more teeth were lost because of caries by 85 (10.3%). After controlling for sex, SES and visiting pattern, baseline caries experience predicted subsequent tooth loss, with the odds increasing by 2.8 for every increase by 1 in the number of decayed surfaces present at age 18. Episodic dental visitors had 3.1 times the odds of their routine visiting counterparts of losing a tooth over the observation period. The number of teeth lost was, on average, 2.3 times higher among episodic dental visitors.
Conclusions: Socio-economic inequalities in tooth loss appear to begin early in the life course, and are modified by individuals' SES and dental visiting patterns.