Background. Barriers exist to the U.S. surgeon general's call to action toward a goal of achieving oral health for all Americans. The authors describe perceptions of oral health among the public according to the results of a statewide survey conducted in Minnesota. Methods. During a four-month period in 2005,1,636 noninstitutional- ized adults received a mixed-mode mail and telephone survey. The 40- item survey contained questions regarding the importance of oral health to respondents (overall), as well as the relative importance of oral health to overall health compared with diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. Results. The majority of respondents (76.1 percent) rated the overall importance of their oral health as "very important." Interestingly, 58.2 percent, 45.8 percent and 69.2 percent of respondents believed that oral health was "about as important" as or "more important" than diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, respectively. Only sex and educational level were associated with self-reports of overall importance of oral health. Conclusions. The findings suggest that the majority of survey respondents considered oral health to be very important and equal in importance to certain medical conditions. Clinical Implications. Among survey respondents, men with less than a college education were less likely than others to value oral health. Clinicians should recognize that this may affect behavior in this patient group, especially among those who may not visit a dentist regularly. When researchers design interventions to address oral health perceptions among the public, health care professionals and/or policymakers, they need to take this patient group into account.
- Oral health