Objectives: To assess the validity of self-reported oral disease and health care measures in two populations.
Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted among a subsample of participants in the VA Dental Longitudinal Study (VADLS) asking them about periodontal disease status and treatment. Radiographic alveolar bone loss evaluated at all the interproximal sites was used as the standard. A separate study was carried out among first-time patients at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine (HSDM) student clinic. Self-reported measures were obtained by a self-administered questionnaire and compared with clinical and radiograph examinations. The measures used were based on published work that demonstrated good validity of self-reported periodontal measures among health professionals.
Results: Among 145 VADLS participants, self-reports of periodontal disease showed a good specificity (59.8%-90.7%), but low sensitivity (17.7%-64.7%). Among 58 HSDM patients, the self-reported numbers of remaining teeth, fillings, root canal therapy, and prosthesis were strongly correlated with clinical records (r = 0.74-1.0); self-report was less accurate for measures of periodontal disease (r = 0.56) and decayed teeth (r = 0.47).
Conclusions: Self-reports provide reasonably valid estimates for numbers of remaining teeth, fillings, root canal therapy, and fixed and removable prostheses. However, they appear to be less useful for the assessment of dental caries and periodontal disease in the two populations we have studied. There remains a need and potential to further develop self-report oral health measures that are valid for use in large population studies. Such self-report measures would yield great cost and time savings.