Community socioeconomic status and children's dental health

James A. Gillcrist, David E. Brumley, Jennifer U. Blackford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Background. Although a substantial decline in dental caries has occurred among U.S. children, not everyone has benefited equally. The first-ever surgeon general's report on oral health in America indicates that the burden of oral diseases is found in poor Americans. This study investigates the relationship between community socioeconomic status, or SES, and dental health of children. Methods. An oral health survey of 17,256 children, representing 93 percent of children residing in 62 Tennessee communities, was conducted in public elementary schools during the 1996-1997 school year. Portable dental equipment was used for examinations, and data from each examination were entered directly into a laptop computer. The authors performed analyses of covariance to examine the relationship between community SES (low/medium/ high) and dental health, controlling for community fluoridation. Results. Community SES was significantly related to caries experience in the primary teeth, the proportion of untreated caries in the primary and permanent teeth, dental treatment needs, dental sealants and incisor trauma. Overall, dental health was significantly worse for low-SES communities than for medium- and high-SES communities. Conclusion. The authors conclude that all specific dental indexes used to measure children's dental health in this study, with the exceptions of caries experience in the permanent teeth and sealant presence, were inversely related to the communities' SES. The percentage of children with dental sealants was directly related to the community's SES. Practice Implications. Further improvements in oral health will necessitate that community-based preventive programs and access to quality dental care be made available to children who are identified as being at highest risk of experiencing oral disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-222
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Dental Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


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