Oral Health and Quality of Life of Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers in North Carolina

Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
  • Arcury, Thomas;
  • Quandt, Sara;
  • Davis, Steven W.;
  • Grzywacz, Joseph G.;
  • Hiott, Ann E.


Oral health deficits can have a significant effect on workers' general health and their ability to carry out normal activities. Although farmworkers have been found to lack access to dental care, few studies have documented their oral health status or its impact on quality of life (QOL). This research (1) describes the oral health problems experienced and oral health care received by Latino farmworkers in North Carolina, and (2) explores the association between oral health and QOL. Data were collected using face-to-face interviews from a representative sample of 151 farmworkers; data included oral health-related QOL (OHIP-14) and general health-related QOL (SF-12 Health Survey). Workers reported a high number of unmet needs: 52% reported caries, and 33% reported missing teeth. Only 21% had received dental services in the past year, almost all in Mexico rather than the U.S. The dimensions of oral health-related QOL most impaired were psychological discomfort and physical pain caused by dental problems. Number of functional oral health problems was the strongest predictor of oral health-related QOL (p < 0.001) and physical health-related QOL (p < 0.05), but was unrelated to mental health-related QOL. These findings indicate that the high rate of unmet oral health needs is associated with poorer farmworker QOL. The consequences of suffering on-going dental pain for work performance, sleep, and nutritional status are unknown. Because national data indicate that fewer farmworkers are returning to their countries of origin, communities with large farmworker populations need to address their unmet needs for dental care.

Full article can be found in: Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health
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