2. Oral Health Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Malaysia.
3. Disease Control Division, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Malaysia.
4. Institute for Health Systems Research, National Institutes of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Malaysia.
5. Family Health Development Divsion, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Malaysia.
6. MAHSA University College, Malaysia.
Background: Chronic periodontitis has been recognised as one of the complications of diabetes mellitus. Individuals with diabetes are at higher risk of destructive periodontal disease. The objective of this study was to examine the oral health seeking behaviour of diabetic patients in Malaysia in order to improve their oral health condition.
Methods: A cross-sectional study on Type II diabetes patients was conducted at selected public sector health clinics across four states, using self-administrated questionnaires. Descriptive data analysis was performed using SPSS version 19.
Results: Of the 4,017 respondents, only 35.5% (95% CI: 34.10-37.10) acknowledged the association of diabetes and oral health. Less than half [48.4% (95% CI: 46.90-50.00)] had dental check-up since their diagnosis of diabetes. Of these, only 35.3% (95% CI: 33.10- 37.40) had their last dental visit within the past one year. This accounted for only 16.7% of all respondents. Among those who had dental check-up, majority of them [95.4% (95% CI: 94.30-96.30)] were self-motivated while the remaining [4.6% (95% CI: 3.70-5.70)] were referred by healthcare staff. About 79.2% (95% CI: 77.90-80.40) claimed that dental check-up is important for diabetes patients. However, only 59.9% (95% CI: 58.30-61.40) wanted to be referred for dental care. Three main reasons for not wanting a referral were perceived lack of necessity for a dental check-up, the absence of dental problems and the perception that dental problems were not serious.
Conclusion: Despite majority of diabetes patients claiming the importance of dental check-up (79.2%), the demand for dental referral (59.9%) and actual oral healthcare utilisation (48.4%) were low. Referral of diabetes patients for oral healthcare by healthcare workers was very low. There is a need to increase the oral health awareness of diabetes patients and to improve their utilisation of oral healthcare. Healthcare workers need to routinely refer diabetes patients for a dental check-up.
Keywords: Diabetes patients, oral health-seeking behaviour, dental check-up, diabetes mellitus