Between 2001 and 2002, all age limits restricting the availability of subsidized private dental care and Public Dental Services (PDS) were abolished in Finland. In addition, the reform aimed to address income- and residence-related disparities in access to subsidized oral health care services. The aim of this study was to analyse how dental attendance and factors associated with it changed after the reform.
We carried out three consecutive surveys on the use of oral health care services and perceived oral health. The surveys were conducted in 2001 (n = 2837), in 2004 (n = 2420) and in 2007 (n = 2296), and the study population comprised Finnish adults born in 1970 or earlier. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine factors associated with the use of the services.
The percentage of respondents who attended dental care regularly or had used oral health care services over the past 12 months rose between 2001 and 2007. In particular, there was an increase in the proportion of subjects who used PDS. The average number of visits to a private dentist decreased between 2001 and 2007. In the regression analyses, the use of services was associated with older age, perceived lack of need for care, perceived toothache during the past 12 months, perceived good oral health, lower number of missing teeth and regular dental visiting habits. The use of private dental care services was associated with perceived good oral health and perceived lack of need for care, higher household income and older age in all three study years while the use of PDS was associated with younger age, perceived good oral health and perceived lack of need for care only in 2001.
The use of oral health care services rose and age did not seem to be a barrier to the use of oral health care services after the reform, as was the aim of the reform. No change in the association of household income with the use of oral health care services was seen after the OHCR.