Stability of dental health behavior: a 3-year prospective cohort study of 15-, 16- and 18-year-old Norwegian adolescents

Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 1998 Apr;26(2):129-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0528.1998.tb01939.x.


There is a need for a descriptive epidemiology of patterns of dental health behavior through adolescence.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the tracking (degree of stability) of several categories of self-reported dental health behavior in adolescence over a 3-year period.

Methods: In 1992, a representative sample of 970 15-year-old adolescents of Hordaland county, Norway, completed questionnaires under supervision at school. Postal follow-up studies 1 and 3 years later provided 709 and 781 answers, respectively. The present analyses included 581 adolescents who participated on all three occasions and 670 adolescents who replied in 1992 and 1995. Paired sample t-tests, cross-tabulations and Pearson's correlation coefficients were used to assess stability. For use in the cross-tabulations all variables were transformed into binary categories (active and inactive).

Results: A substantial proportion of adolescents remained consistently in the same behavioral category for all 3 survey years. Toothbrushing (80%) and use of dental floss (64%) were the most stable activities, while consumption of sugared mineral water (53%), intake of chocolate/sweets (52%) and use of F-rinse (54%) were less stable. However, Pearson's correlations between corresponding behaviors assessed in 1992 and 1995 were moderate and varied from 0.59 (toothbrushing) to 0.22 (F-rinse) (P<0.001).

Conclusion: The results do not conclusively indicate a pattern of tracking. The tendency is, however, clear enough to support the assumption that dental health behavior continues during adolescence into adulthood.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Candy / statistics & numerical data
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fluorides
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oral Hygiene / psychology
  • Oral Hygiene / statistics & numerical data*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Dietary Sucrose
  • Fluorides