Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Human Development and Family Science


Developmental Science


Human Development and Family Science

First Advisor

Phillip Clark


Oral comfort plays a vital role in the older adult population in which social events and participation require adequate oral health to avoid pain and discomfort. Oral discomfort may discourage social experiences and decrease an individual’s overall quality of life. Evaluating the relationship between one’s oral health and quality of life is dependent on a variety of influences, including oral health deficits, such as using a denture appliance or having inadequate number of teeth to function and maintain oral comfort. The current study aims to examine the relationship between one’s oral health status and Oral Health Related Quality of Life (OHRQoL) in the older adult population, and to explore if poorer oral health contributes to reducing OHRQoL. The current analysis uses data from the 2008 wave of the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES) obtained via the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) website. Using specific variables in the nutritional survey, a composite score was created to represent individual oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) scores for respondents 60+ years old. The newly created composite score was reliable (α =0.823). A linear regression was conducted to evaluate the relationship between oral health deficits and OHRQoL scores. The results indicated that there was a significant relationship between oral health deficits and OHRQoL scores (p< 0.001). Having posterior teeth versus no posterior teeth had the strongest contribution to OHRQoL scores. Respondents with 20+ teeth present had increased OHRQoL compared to those who had less than sixteen teeth present which decreased OHRQoL. The second linear regression model added controls for demographic factors. The results indicated that both education and race/ethnicity were associated with OHRQoL scores (p< 0.001). These results indicate that both demographic predictors, as well as oral health status, are correlated with OHRQoL scores. The negative effects of poor oral health in the older adult population require further investigation and should be considered a public health priority to seek ways to improve oral health in this growing population, and to reduce the negative influence these disparities have on healthy living in the older adult population.



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