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This study aims to evaluate inequality in oral health among adolescents and to explain the mechanisms of such inequalities in Gangneung, South Korea.
One thousand two hundred sixty-seven students in their first year from four vocational and three general schools participated in the baseline survey of 2011, and 84.7% of them were surveyed again in 2013. Oral examinations by the same dentist and a self-administered questionnaire were repeated during both waves. Outcome measure for oral health was the existence of untreated dental caries (DT). As socioeconomic position (SEP) indicators, school type (general vs. vocational), father’s and mother’s education, perceived economic status, and Family Affluence Scale (FAS) were measured. Variables measuring oral health related behaviours included tooth brushing frequency, frequency of eating snacks and drinking sodas, smoking, and annual visits to dental clinics. Chi-square tests and panel logistic regression were adopted to examine the associations between dental caries and SEP indicators by STATA version 15.1.
Having a less educated father and attending a vocational school were significant predictors for untreated caries after controlling for SEP indicators. However, students from general schools, higher SEP by father’s education, perceived economic status, or FAS, or having non-smoking experience or annual visits to dental clinics were more likely to stay caries-free.
There were socioeconomic inequalities in oral health on an adolescent panel. Given that oral health status during adolescents can persist throughout the course of a person’s life, intervention to tackle such inequalities and school environments are required.