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Children’s use of dental services in the five Nordic countries
  1. Jorma I Virtanen1,2,
  2. Leeni T Berntsson3,
  3. Eero Lahelma4,
  4. Lennart Köhler2,
  5. Heikki Murtomaa1
  1. 1
    Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  2. 2
    Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden
  3. 3
    Institute of Health and Care Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
  4. 4
    Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  1. Dr Jorma I Virtanen, University of Helsinki, PO Box 41, FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland; jorma.virtanen{at}


Background: An increase in the use of general practitioner services for children has taken place since the 1980s in the Nordic countries, but little is known about the use of dental services during this time.

Aim: To compare differences in children’s use of dental services in the five Nordic countries and to analyse changes over time from the 1980s to the 1990s.

Methods: The participants were 20 500 children aged 2–17 years from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Cross-sectional population surveys using random samples comprising 3000 children in each country were conducted in 1984 and 1996. Changes over time in the use of dental services were studied in each country by age, sex, level of parental education and living area.

Results: The prevalence of children’s utilisation of dental services varied between 60% and 34% in 1984, and between 42% and 30% in 1996. A clear change towards decreasing utilisation over time (p<0.05) was found in all countries except Finland, where utilisation increased statistically significantly (p<0.05). Odds ratios (1984 _ 1.00) for the changes ranged between 0.66 (95% confidence interval 0.58 to 0.75) in Sweden and 0.71 (0.62 to 0.81) in Iceland, while the corresponding figure was 1.32 (1.16 to 1.48) in Finland. In 1996, children from families with the lowest education in Finland and Norway used dental services more frequently than children from families with higher education.

Conclusion: Children’s use of dental services decreased significantly in four of the five Nordic countries between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s.

  • children
  • dental services
  • health service utilisation
  • Nordic countries
  • oral health care

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  • Ethics approval: The national ethics committees approved the study in each country. The parents and children were informed of the aims of the study in a letter accompanying the questionnaire. They were informed of their right to refuse to participate in the study and that the data processing and presentation would be anonymous.

  • Competing interests: None.

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