• childhood;
  • mediation;
  • sense of coherence;
  • socioeconomic position;
  • teeth

Bernabé E, Watt RG, Sheiham A, Suominen AL, Vehkalahti MM, Nordblad A, Uutela A, Kivimäki M, Tsakos G. Childhood socioeconomic position, adult sense of coherence and tooth retention. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2012; 40: 46–52. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S

Abstract –  Objective:  To explore the role of sense of coherence (SOC) as a mediator in the relationship between childhood socioeconomic position (SEP) and tooth retention in adulthood.

Methods:  Data from 5401 dentate adults aged 30 and over who participated in the nationally representative Finnish Health 2000 Survey were analysed. Participants provided information on demographic characteristics (sex and age), childhood SEP (parental education), adulthood SEP (years of education and household income), the SOC scale and oral health-related behaviours (dental attendance, toothbrushing frequency, sugar intake frequency and daily smoking). They also had a clinical oral health examination. Structural equation modelling was used to test a model including adulthood SEP, SOC and oral health-related behaviours as mediators of the relationship between childhood SEP and tooth retention. Multigroup comparison was also conducted to test the hypothesized model within each sex and age group (<45 years, 45–59 years and 60+ years).

Results:  The relationship between childhood SEP and tooth retention in adulthood was to a large extent mediated by adulthood SEP and to a much lesser extent by SOC. There was only a weak association between childhood SEP and adult SOC, but favourable oral health-related behaviours appeared to link a strong SOC with greater tooth retention. The model was invariant across sexes and age groups.

Conclusions:  SOC is associated with tooth retention through oral health-related behaviours, but contributes little to the relationship between childhood SEP and tooth retention.