The Relationship between Socio-economic Status, Oral Health, Dental Services Uptake and the Provision of Dental Treatments amongst Adolescents

  • Claire Telford

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Oral health was defined by the Department of health as the, ‘standard of health of the oral and related tissues which enables an individual to eat, speak and socialise without active disease, discomfort or embarrassment and which contributes to general well-being’. As permanent teeth erupt just prior to or during adolescence, oral health will peak at this time when teeth are at their newest and least likely to be affected by decay. This stock of health is expected to depreciate across the years of life for a number of reasons relating to biological factors, social and physical environment, health influencing behaviours and dental care. In accordance with these factors, the rate of depreciation of oral health will therefore take place at faster rates for some groups than others.

The two most common oral diseases in adolescence are dental caries and periodontal disease both of which are likely to cause pain. The consequences of such pain will have an effect on adolescents and this may have life-long implications; for example lost school days may affect the learning experience which in turn could negatively impact on examination performance and hence leave such adolescents at a disadvantage when entering the job market. Although no specific studies have been conducted, adolescents with poorer oral health will for obvious reasons be more likely to become edentulous later in life. Edentulous individuals, most likely due to difficulty in eating some foods, have been found at greater risk of malnutrition.

Aesthetic appearance of teeth may improve, through the use of orthodontic treatment, or deteriorate, with increased caries or periodontal disease, during adolescence and this can affect the way adolescents socialize. Adolescents whose teeth are less aesthetically appealing may be less likely to socialize as a result of bullying or low self esteem. Generally speaking, with poorer oral health, one is likely to experience a lower quality of life.

Adolescence presents a time when one is gaining independence from parental influences and adolescents are likely to have increased responsibility for their oral health e.g. dental visiting. This makes oral health in adolescence even more challenging to sustain. Identifying those adolescents at the greatest risk of having the poorest levels of oral health will allow for appropriate measures to be designed and implemented in order to attenuate such disparities.
Date of AwardJul 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast

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