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Disparities in edentulism and tooth loss between Māori and non-Māori New Zealand women


Correspondence to:
Beverley Lawton, Director, Women's Health Research Centre, Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, Wellington School of Medicine & Health Sciences, PO Box 7343, Wellington South, New Zealand. Fax: +64 4 385 5473; e-mail:


Objectives: Tooth loss and edentulism are important negative health outcomes; however, there is little current information about the prevalence of these conditions among adults in New Zealand (NZ). This study describes the dentate status of Maori and non-Maori NZ women with regard to tooth loss, edentulism and denture-wearing, and investigates ethnic and sociodemographic disparities within the sample. Associations between dentate status, socio-demographic and health-related factors are described.

Methods: Participants were 1,817 women who were screened for participation in a randomised controlled trial.

Results: 9.0% of women were edentulous and 30.3% wore a denture (partial or complete). The mean number of teeth present was 24.2, and older women had fewer teeth on average. Socio-demographic and ethnic disparities in tooth loss and edentulism were observed. Maori ethnicity was strongly associated with edentulism and tooth loss, with Maori women five times more likely than NZ European women to be edentulous. These associations held after controlling for age, education, smoking, diabetes, cardiovascular disease history, and BMI.

Conclusions: Marked ethnic disparities in edentulism and tooth loss exist in New Zealand. Effective targeted programmes are needed to reduce the public health impact of poor oral health among Maori.

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