AIM : This study examined the influence of the social context in which people
live on self-ratings of their oral health. METHOD : This study involved a representative sample of 2,907 South African adults (≥16 years) who participated in the 2007 South African Social Attitude Survey (SASAS). We used the 2005 General Household Survey (n = 107,987 persons from 28,129 households) to obtain living environment characteristics of SASAS participants, including sources of water and energy, and household cell-phone ownership (a proxy measure for the social network available to them). Information obtained from SASAS included socio-demographic data, respondents’ level of trust in people, oral health behaviors and self-rated oral health. RESULTS : Of the respondents, 76.3%
self-rated their oral health as good. Social context influenced women’s self-rated oral health differently from that of men. Good self-rated oral health was significantly higher among non-smokers, employed respondents and women living in areas with higher household cell-phone ownership. Furthermore, trust and higher social position were associated with good self-rated oral health among men and women respectively. Overall, 55.1% and 18.3% of the variance in self-rated oral health were explained by factors operating at the individual and community levels respectively. CONCLUSION : The findings highlight the potential role of social capital in improving the population’s oral health.