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J Dent Res. 2009 Jul;88(7):653-7. doi: 10.1177/0022034509339300.

How people on social assistance perceive, experience, and improve oral health.

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Faculty of Dentistry, McGill University, 3640 University Street, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H2A 3B2.


Oral diseases are highly prevalent among people on social assistance. Despite benefiting from public dental coverage in North America, these people rarely consult the dentist. One possible reason is rooted in their perception of oral health and the means to improve it. To respond to this question, largely unexplored, we conducted qualitative research through 8 focus groups and 15 individual interviews in Montreal (Canada). Thematic analysis revealed that people on social assistance: (a) define oral health in a social manner, placing tremendous value on dental appearance; (b) complain about the decline of their dental appearance and its devastating impact on self-esteem, social interaction, and employability; and (c) feel powerless to improve their oral health and therefore contemplate extractions and complete dentures. Our research demonstrates that perception of oral health strongly influences treatment preference and explains low and selective use of dental services in this disadvantaged population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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