Background: Ethnic differences exist in oral health. However, the causes of the differences have not been adequately addressed. The objective of this study is to examine the effect of socioeconomic position on ethnic differences in oral health.
Methods: Data were from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in USA (1988-1994). The effects of income and education on ethnic differences in perceived oral health, gingival bleeding, periodontitis and tooth loss were analyzed using a series of regression models.
Results: The probabilities of poorer oral health were higher among African American, Mexican Americans and other ethnic groups than in White Americans. Adjusting for income and education resulted in a reduction in the odds ratios for having poorer perceived oral health (44%), tooth loss (29%), gingival bleeding (61%) and periodontitis (30%) among African Americans compared to White Americans. Similar reductions in risk were observed among Mexican Americans and other ethnic groups.
Conclusion: The results indicate that education and income play an important role in ethnic differences in oral health. Despite the major impact of socioeconomic position, the results imply that there are causes additional to socioeconomic position for ethnic differences in oral health.