Oral health impacts and quality of life in an urban homeless population

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Abstract

Background:

Homeless people experience a much higher burden of general health conditions and have much poorer oral health than the rest of the population. The aim of this study was to determine the oral health impacts and general quality of life of an urban homeless population.

Methods:

A convenience sample of 58 adults (dentate n = 56) experiencing homelessness were assessed using a survey which included the 14-item Oral Health Impact Profile and the 26-item World Health Organization's Quality of Life – short version. A subset (n = 34) also underwent a dental examination.

Results:

The study participants were younger, more likely to be Indigenous, smoked daily and avoided dental care because of cost than the rest of the population. Dentate homeless adults reported significantly greater oral health impacts when compared with the Australian dentate population. General quality of life was significantly poorer than for the rest of the population. Treatment need was associated with greater oral health impacts.

Conclusions:

Poor oral health is prevalent and adversely impacts quality of life for homeless people, but it is only one of a range of complex social and health challenges being faced by these individuals. Dental care should be better integrated within homeless support services.

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