Background: General dental care can effectively control disease and restore damaged tissue, yet little is known about its impact on patients' subjective oral health, namely treatment goals and oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL). This study aimed to evaluate change in both aspects of subjective oral health among elderly adults receiving publicly-funded, general dental care.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, single-group intervention study of adults aged 75+ years receiving care through the South Australian Dental Service (SADS). Before receiving dental care, subjects completed the Oral Health Impact Profile (OHIP-14) questionnaire which evaluates OHRQoL. In this questionnaire, subjects rated the extent to which they had attained a self-nominated oral health goal. Dentists provided standard-of-care treatment and six months later the OHIP-14 and goal attainment questions were re-administered.
Results: Among the 253 adults studied, overall improvements in OHRQoL were observed (p < 0.05), although the effect was dependent on pre-treatment goal: mean OHIP-14 scores did not change significantly for subjects whose goal was less pain/discomfort while significant improvements were observed for subjects with other treatment goals. In contrast, mean goal attainment ratings improved significantly (P < 0.05), regardless of treatment goal categories.
Conclusions: Dental care was associated with improvements in subjective oral health, although different patterns of improvement were observed for OHRQoL compared with goal attainment ratings.