• oral health;
  • elderly;
  • tooth loss;
  • self-perception

Objectives:  The objective of this study was to verify the association between the number of teeth present with socio-demographic and economic variables and with the access to dental services and self-perception of oral health among the elderly.

Materials and Methods:  The sample was composed of individuals from 65 to 74 years of age, which was representative of the state of São Paulo (n = 781). In this study, the analysis of data considered dentate elderly only, who were divided into two groups: those with one to 19 teeth and those with 20 teeth or more. The chi-squared test was used in the bivariate analysis and the logistic regression was also performed (p < 0.05).

Results:  Among the 313 dentate elderly, 235 (75.1%) presented one to 19 teeth. The average number of teeth was 9.5 for the elderly with fewer teeth and 25 for those with more teeth. In the bivariate analysis, all variables related to the access to dental services were associated and the chances of having less teeth was among elderly who did not visit the dentist for a long time and among those who sought public dental services and did not receive information on how to avoid oral problems. In addition, the elderly who classified their speech as not good were those who presented with fewer teeth.

Conclusion:  Most subjects presented one to 19 teeth and this fact was directly associated, among others factors, to the unsatisfactory perception that they reported in relation to their speech and to the too long period without visiting the dentist.