This study investigated whether oral hygiene self-care behavior differs between genders in older adults in Appalachia, a geographic area with significant oral health concerns. Identifying the practices of older adults may provide valuable information for designing interventions, and improving overall oral health outcomes.
As part of a larger, on-going study on cognition and oral health in later life in Appalachia, a sample of dentate, older adults without dementia aged 70 and above (n =245, 86 men and 159 women) received an oral assessment by either a dentist or dental hygienist. Psychometricians assessed cognition using a standardized battery of neuropsychological tests. They also administered the General Oral Health Assessment Index and conducted structured interviews concerning diet, oral hygiene practices, oral health, social support, income, and years of education.
Over 80% of women (n = 128) and 52.3% of men (n = 45) reported brushing their teeth twice daily. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was conducted, controlling for socioeconomic status, social support (i.e., frequency of contacting friends and relatives), general oral health assessment items, number of decayed, missing, and filled surfaces, plaque index, and having regular dental visits. The results showed that women reported more frequent toothbrushing than their male counterparts (OR=4.04, 95% CI:1.93,8.42).
Older women in West Virginia had significantly better oral hygiene practices than older men, particularly regarding toothbrushing. Interventions are needed to improve older men’s dental hygiene behaviors to improve overall oral health outcomes.