Dental epidemiology has indicated that immigrants and minority ethnic groups should be regarded as high risk populations on the verge of oral health deterioration. The objectives of this study were to measure the changing pattern of dental caries, periodontal health status and tooth cleaning behaviour among a cohort of Ethiopian immigrants to Israel between the years 1999–2005.
Increment of dental caries and periodontal health status was recorded among a cohort of 672 Ethiopian immigrants, utilizing the DMFT and CPI indices. Data were gathered during 1999–2000 and five years later, during 2004–2005. Participants were asked about their oral hygiene habits in Ethiopia and in Israel five years since their immigration.
Regarding dental caries, at baseline 70.1% of the examinees were caries-free, as compared to 57.3% after five years. DMFT had increased from 1.48 to 2.31. For periodontal health status, at baseline, 94.7% demonstrated no periodontal pockets (CPI scores 0–2) and 5.3% revealed periodontal pockets (CPI scores 3&4), compared to 75.6% and 24.4%, respectively after five years. At baseline, 74% reported cleaning their teeth exclusively utilizing chewing and cleaning sticks common in Ethiopia. After five years, 97% reported cleaning their teeth exclusively utilizing toothbrushes.
The deterioration in the oral health status, especially the alarming and significant worsening of periodontal health status, among this immigrant group, emphasizes the need for health promotion and maintenance among immigrants and minority groups in changing societies. An "acclimatizing and integrating" model of oral health promotion among minority and immigrant groups is suggested.