BACKGROUND: Little is known of the motives for tooth-brushing
among adolescents in resource-poor settings.
AIM: To investigate the principal motive for tooth-brushing
among a rural population of South African adolescents.
METHODS: The participants were high school students between
the ages of 12 and 19 years who provided baseline data during
2005 as part of a tobacco use prevention trial (n = 2119).
Information was obtained using a self-administered survey questionnaire,
including demographic data, data on the employment
status of the parents, oral health practices and risk behaviors. The
main outcome measure was the principal reason for brushing.
Data was analyzed using chi-square statistics and multiple logistic
RESULTS: Of the study participants, only 27.2% had ever visited a
dentist. For 28.9%, both parents are unemployed. The principal
motive for brushing among most adolescents (84.9%), including
those who reported frequent sugar intake, was related to cosmetic
rather than preventive dental health reasons. Motives for
brushing were not associated with brushing frequency. However,
the socially disadvantaged, current smokers, and those who
reported a past suicide attempt were significantly less likely to
brush for cosmetic reasons.
CONCLUSIONS: Motives for tooth-brushing among adolescents may
reflect their psychosocial state rather than knowledge of the preventive
effect of brushing.