Self-reported oral health of a metropolitan homeless population in Australia: comparisons with population-level data


Dr Eleanor J Parker
School of Dentistry
Faculty of Health Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Adelaide SA 5005


Background:  There is limited information on self-perceived oral health of homeless populations. This study quantified self-reported oral health among a metropolitan homeless adult population and compared against a representative sample of the metropolitan adult population obtained from the National Survey of Adult Oral Health.

Methods:  A total of 248 homeless participants (age range 17–78 years, 79% male) completed a self-report questionnaire. Data for an age-matched, representative sample of metropolitan-dwelling adults were obtained from Australia’s second National Survey of Adult Oral Health. Percentage responses and 95% confidence intervals were calculated, with non-overlapping 95% confidence intervals used to identify statistically significant differences between the two groups.

Results:  Homeless adults reported poorer oral health than their age-matched general population counterparts. Twice as many homeless adults reported visiting a dentist more than a year ago and that their usual reason for dental attendance was for a dental problem. The proportion of homeless adults with a perceived need for fillings or extractions was also twice that of their age-matched general population counterparts. Three times as many homeless adults rated their oral health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’.

Conclusions:  A significantly greater proportion of homeless adults in an Australian metropolitan location reported poorer oral health compared with the general metropolitan adult population.