Date of Award

Fall 12-5-2017

Degree Type



Exercise Science

Director of Thesis

Dr. Michael McCall

First Reader

Dr. Celeste Springer


The importance of oral health to overall health cannot be overstated. For example, oral health can be used for early diagnosis of diseases such as diabetes. Furthermore, it has been well studied that self-esteem is related to oral health. Individuals with proper oral health care have more confidence to interact with others, which results in higher self-esteem. Those who lack the ability to pay for oral healthcare are thus at a great disadvantage. The present study sought to investigate the relationship between oral health and self-esteem in two Columbia, SC populations through surveying. There were two study populations, students at the University of South Carolina and low-income adults at the Free Clinic and a free dental day at Swansea Dental Care. 288 individuals were surveyed on oral health, self-esteem, and demographics. Predictor variables included income, dental insurance, health insurance, number of cosmetic and high-risk procedures, and highest level of education. Results of the analysis indicate that there is a relationship between oral health and self-esteem in this population. Dental insurance and education together predicted oral health most closely. Surprisingly, income did not predict self-esteem. Overall, the results highlight the necessity for accessibility to proper oral health care in order to ensure not only physical health, but mental health as well.

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