This study aimed to test whether socioeconomic status (SES) in childhood may affect dental visiting patterns between ages 18 and 32 years.
Using data from a complete birth cohort, childhood SES status was measured (using the New Zealand Elley-Irving index) at each study stage between birth and 15 years. Longitudinal dental visiting data were available for 833 study participants from ages 15, 18, 26, and 32, and these were analyzed by trajectory analysis.
Three separate dental visiting trajectories were identified; these were categorized as opportunists (13.1%), decliners (55.9%), and routine attenders (30.9%). Bivariate analyses showed low SES in childhood, male sex, and dental anxiety to be associated with membership of the "opportunist" dental visiting trajectory. Multinomial logistic regression showed that low childhood SES and dental anxiety were statistically significant predictors for membership in the opportunist or decliner trajectories after accounting for potential confounding variables.
Individuals who grew up experiencing low childhood SES were less likely to adopt a routine dental visiting trajectory in adulthood than those with a high childhood SES. Dental anxiety was also an important predictor of dental visiting patterns.