Oral Health, Related Behaviors and Oral Health Impacts Among Homeless Adults


UMDNJ-New Jersey Dental School, Department of Community Health, 110 Bergen Street, Room B-856A, Newark, NJ 07103-2400. Phone: 972-972-3796 Fax: 973-972-0363 Email: broder@umdnj.edu


Objectives:To assess the oral health needs, related behavior and oral health impact among homeless persons in Newark, New Jersey. Methods:Participants represented a convenience sample of adults (n=46) participating in Homeless Services Day, an annual event sponsored by the Homeless Services Division of the Newark, NJ Department of Health and Human Services. Their mean age was 40.4 yr (SD=10.0), and 51.1% were female. The majority (76%) reported African-American ethnicity; remaining participants self-identified as Hispanic, White or Asian. Participants reported being homeless for a median of 11 months, with a range of 1 to 108 months. Results:The 46 participants had 745 teeth (averaged 16.2 per person) that were either missing, had fillings or had untreated decay. Diseased teeth averaged 3.8 per person; missing teeth averaged 8.6 per person; and filled teeth averaged 3.7 per person. Only 28.3% had a dental visit in the past year. Approximately 87% reported negative oral health impacts impact: over half (55.6%) had current oral facial pain and two-thirds of our participants reported having dental-related face pain during the past year. Additional oral health impacts included: eating (42%), smiling (33%), concentrating (18%) and talking (16%). Conclusions:Consistent with other studies, this homeless sample presented with considerable oral health needs. Newark's homeless, like other homeless cohorts, face access to care and negative oral health impacts. This study informs the need for future research that can provide substantive evidence for care providers and policy makers.