The oral health education programs which have been organised and delivered in Tanzania were not based on a thorough understanding of behaviours which influence oral health. Therefore, evaluation of these programs became difficult. This study aimed at investigating the oral health related behaviours and their determinants among Tanzanian adults.
A national pathfinder cross sectional survey was conducted in 2006 involving 1759 respondents from the six geographic zones of mainland Tanzania. Frequency distributions, Chi square and multiple logistic regression analyses were performed using SPSS version 13.0.
The rates of abstinence from alcohol for the past 30 days and life time smoking were 61.6% and 16.7% respectively, with males being more likely to smoke (OR 9.2, CI 6.3 -12.9, p < 0.001) and drink alcohol (OR 1.5, CI 1.2 -1.8, p < 0.001). Multiple regression analysis revealed that; having dental pain (OR 0.7, CI 0.5-0.8; p < 0.001) and being minimally educated (OR 0.48, CI 0.4-0.6; p < 0.001) reduced the likelihood of having a high sugar score. Whereas being male (OR 1.5, CI 1.2- 1.8; p < 0.001), urban (OR 1.9, CI 1.5 -2.3; p < 0.001), and young (OR 1.5, CI 1.2 -1.8; p < 0.001) increased the likelihood of having a high sugar score. Urban residents were less likely to take alcohol (OR 0.7, CI 0.6-0.9; p < 0.01), or smoke cigarette (OR = 0.7, CI = 0.6-0.9); less likely to be those who do not use fruits (OR 0.3, CI 0.2-0.4; p < 0.001); dental clinic (OR 0.5, CI 0.4-0.7; p < 0.001); factory made tooth brushes (OR 0.1, CI 0.08-0.17; p < 0.001) and toothpaste (OR 0.1, CI 0.1-0.2; p < 0.001) than their rural counterparts. More rural (13.2%) than urban (4.6%) residents used charcoal.
The findings of this study demonstrated social demographic disparities in relation to oral health related behaviors, while dental pain was associated with low consumption of sugar and high likelihood to take alcohol.