Previous studies have shown variation in long-term dental visiting but little is known about the oral health outcomes of such variation.
The objective of this study is to determine the association of different dental visiting trajectories with dental clinical and oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) indicators.
This study utilized data from the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a continuing longitudinal study of 1,037 babies born in Dunedin (New Zealand) between April 1, 1972 and March 31, 1973. Data presented here were collected at ages 15, 18, 26, and 32 years. Three categories of dental attendance were identified in earlier research, namely: regulars (n = 285, 30.9 percent of the cohort), decliners (441, 55.9 percent), and opportunistic users (107, 13.1 percent).
There was a statistically significant association between opportunistic dental visiting behavior and decayed missing and filled surfaces score (Beta = 3.9) as well as missing teeth because of caries (Beta = 0.7). Nonregular dental visiting trajectories were associated with higher Oral Health Impact Profile (OHIP-14) scores (Beta = 2.1) and lower self-rated oral health scores (prevalence ratio = 0.8).
Long-term, postchildhood dental attendance patterns are associated with oral health in adulthood, whether defined by clinical dental indicators or OHRQoL. Improving dental visiting behavior among low socioeconomic status groups would have the greatest effect on improving oral health and reducing oral health impacts.