Nationally representative studies on socioeconomic differences in toothache prevalence are very limited, especially with a long follow-up period. Our aim was to examine the education-related differences in toothache prevalence among 25- to 64-year-olds in Finland during 1990-2014.
We used data from the Health Behaviour and Health Among the Finnish Adult Population surveys. Data were gathered by random samples of 15- to 64-year-old Finns annually between 1990 and 2014. Response rates decreased during this period from 76% (n = 3812) to 53% (n = 2630). Our final pooled total sample size was 63 372 after exclusion of edentate participants and missing data. Relative educational level was used to measure socioeconomic position. In addition to basic tabulations, educational differences in toothache prevalence during the past month were investigated using the multiple additive regression tree for mediation analysis.
The proportion of respondents who reported having had toothache during the past month increased from 7% to 12% from 1990 to 2014. Educational differences in toothache prevalence were small for the whole study period, especially in women. Men with high relative education had a lower toothache prevalence than people with low relative education during 1990-1994 and 2010-2014. This stemmed from the direct effect of relative education and the indirect effects of toothbrushing frequency, number of missing teeth and perceived health. In both sexes, those with middle-level relative education had higher toothache prevalence than people with low relative education 1995-2009.
During 1990-2014, toothache prevalence increased among 25- to 64-year-olds in Finland. Since the mid-1990s, differences in toothache prevalence by relative education remained very small in both sexes. More actions are needed to understand reasons behind the clearly increased toothache prevalence in Finland during the last decades.