Oral health of Finnish prisoners

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Topic of the dissertation

Oral health of Finnish prisoners

Doctoral candidate

Licenciate in Dentistry Raija Vainionpää

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Medical Research Center Oulu; Oulu University Hospital

Subject of study

Department of Cariology, Endodontology and Paediatric Dentistry


Professor Heikki Murtomaa, University of Helsinki

Second opponent

- -, -


Professor Vuokko Anttonen, University of Oulu

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Oral health of Finnish prisoners

The aim of this study was to obtain information on aspects of the oral health and associated factors of Finnish prisoners. The study focused on oral health, health- and oral health-related behaviours, dental fear, as well as general health issues.

A clinical examination including dental caries and erosive tooth wear, periodontal disease, and DC/TM was carried out on all participants. Half of them were interviewed. With interviewing, prisoners’ socio-demographic background factors and information on substance abuse as well as other health- and oral health-related behaviours were obtained. Data on medications was acquired from the prisoners’ patient records. Dental fear and other general fears were surveyed with validated questionnaires.

Substance abuse was common. Almost everyone smoked, and one in every five had used snuff. Pre-prison drug and alcohol use was widespread; drug use was even more prevalent than alcohol use. Almost everyone was taking some prescribed medicine, the most common being antipsychotics, painkillers and sleeping pills. Every other prisoner had hepatitis C. The oral health status of Finnish prisoners was poor. Almost everyone (81%) had a need for restorative treatment. Signs of periodontal disease were common, with severe periodontal problems found in 7% in the study population. Most required at least preventive treatment due to erosive tooth wear. Temporomandibular disorders, both clinically diagnosed and self-reported, were common. Alcohol use was associated with dental caries. Dental fear was common and was associated with the prevalence number of decayed and missing teeth. Few prisoners went regularly to a dentist. Most of them sought dental care when they had pain or other problems.

Oral health among prisoners is poor and constitutes a risk for general health.
Last updated: 1.3.2023