OKAYAMA, Japan: According to the Pan American Health Organization, nine out of ten people are at risk for any type of oral disease, which can be mitigated by healthy oral habits and regular dental check-ups. Investigating the factors that influence willingness to attend dental check-ups regularly may inform public health communication and other means of motivating patients. Researchers in Japan have found that the patients who are most likely to schedule a dental check-up are those who understand the benefit of check-ups in preventing disease and those who have existing positive oral health behaviours.
Evaluations included an oral examination and questionnaire that went beyond enquiring about oral health status and behaviours to asking about participants’ willingness to improve their overall health according to a particular health belief model, as well as their response to a risk aversion scenario. The model used seeks to explain health behaviour in terms of the individual’s beliefs related to health behaviour, employing concepts such as perceived susceptibility, benefits and barriers, to account for readiness to act. Risk averse individuals tend to make decisions based on avoiding the risk of a potentially negative outcome.
The results indicated that, when the participants were more likely to see themselves facing a risk of a negative health outcome in addition to seeing a clear benefit, they were more motivated to engage in preventive health actions. The researchers also found a significant positive association between willingness to have a dental check-up and the oral health behaviours of flossing or using interdental brushes.
The team suggested that the correlation was due to self-efficacy, a concept in the health model that deals with confidence that one can take the actions necessary for producing a certain outcome. It would be expected that risk aversion would drive people to adopt healthy behaviours; however, risk aversion was not demonstrated to be a factor in scheduling dental check-ups. The researchers suggested the possibility that this finding could be attributed to the relatively young age of the survey population, since past studies have indicated that young people have lower risk aversion, and thus recommended further research to investigate the association between these factors. The oral health status measured by oral examination was not found to be associated with a willingness to have regular check-ups.
The study, titled “The impact of oral health behaviors, health belief model, and absolute risk aversion on the willingness of Japanese university students to undergo regular dental check-ups: A cross-sectional study”, was published in the first November 2022 issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.