Childhood Obesity and Dental Caries in an At-risk Preschool Population
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The occurrence of both childhood obesity and dental caries—which are disproportionately high in low-income families and minority groups in the United States—can have life-long negative consequences for individuals and communities. Previous research aimed at investigating the relationship between obesity and dental caries has been inconclusive, and limited among at-risk pre-school age populations. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between body mass index (BMI)-for-age and dental caries within a purposive sample of predominately Hispanic, low-income children enrolled in a Head Start preschool program in South Texas. A purposive sample of 237 children was randomly selected for secondary data analysis. Frequencies, ANOVA, Pearson correlations, and logistic regression analyses were used to describe and analyze the data. The sample consisted of predominately Hispanic (88.2%) children with a mean age of 3.6 years. Prevalence of obesity was 23.2%, and 46.8% had dental caries. Comparison of prevalence of caries (P=0.62), untreated decay (P=0.07), ECC (P=0.38), and dmf (P=0.88) by BMI categories resulted in no significant differences. Pearson correlation analyses found no positive relationship between dmf score and BMI-for-age percentile (r = 0.017), and logistic regression analyses showed no relationship between dmf and obesity (OR=1.00, CI=.05). Increases in children’s BMI category classification was associated with a slight decreased likelihood of caries (OR=0.96, CI=.05) and ECC (OR=0.98, CI=.05), but an increased likelihood of untreated decay (OR=1.42, CI=.05). Although childhood obesity and dental caries share some common etiological and facilitating risk factors, this study supports other research that suggests higher rates of both diseases among at-risk populations simply coexists. An interprofessional approach between primary healthcare professionals, dental professionals and health educators can offer a unique opportunity to prevent and treat both prevalent childhood diseases.