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Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2011 Apr;39(2):145-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0528.2010.00581.x. Epub 2010 Nov 11.

Psychological distress and social support are determinants of changing oral health status among an immigrant population from Ethiopia.

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Department of Community Dentistry, Faculty of Dental Medicine, Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel.



To examine associations between psychosocial profile (psychological distress and social support) and changing oral health status (dental caries and periodontal disease), among a group of immigrants from Ethiopia to Israel.


Three hundred and forty immigrants, aged 18-75 years, with a mean age of 38.4±13.5 years, comprised the study population and were followed over a 5-year period. Dental caries was recorded employing the DMFT index. Periodontal health status was recorded employing the Community Periodontal Index (CPI). Participants were interviewed using a structured written questionnaire which included two validated psychosocial scales, for psychological distress and social support. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed.


Among subjects with psychological distress, the adjusted mean caries (DMFT) increment in 2004-2005, since baseline (1999-2000), was 3.52±0.19 when compared to 0.35±0.15 among subjects with no psychological distress (P<0.001). Correspondingly, the percentage of people with increased periodontal pockets was 40%, when compared to 7%, respectively (P<0.001). In multiple linear regression analysis employing the DMFT as a continuous variable, and in multiple logistic regression analysis employing the DMFT as a dichotomous variable (% caries versus % caries-free), the four variables that reached statistical significance as predictors of caries status were previous caries experience, psychological distress, social support, and age. Gender, income, and education were not significantly related to current caries prevalence. In a multiple logistic regression analysis, the three variables that reached statistical significance as predictors of periodontal disease (shallow and deep pockets) were previous periodontal disease experience, psychological distress, and age. Social support, gender, income, and education were not significantly associated with periodontal disease prevalence.


This study presents persuasive evidence that supports the role of psychological distress and social support as determinants of changing oral health levels, among a low socioeconomic, relatively homogenous immigrant minority population.

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