Research strengthens link between obesity and dental health in homeless children

November 13, 2012

Obesity and dental cavities increase and become epidemic as children living below the poverty level age, according to nurse researchers from the Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron.

"It's the leading cause of chronic infections in children," said Marguerite DiMarco, associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

Researchers Sheau-Huey Chiu, assistant professor, and graduate assistant Jessica L. Prokp, from the University of Akron's College of Nursing, contributed to the study.

Researchers found that as (BMI) increased with age, so do the number of cavities. These findings were published in the online Journal of Pediatric Health Care article, " and dental caries in homeless children."

The study examined the physicals of 157 children, from 2 to 17 years old, at an urban homeless shelter. Most were from single-parent families headed by women with one or two children.

Obesity was calculated based on height and weight or BMI. Cavity counts included missing, filled or injured teeth. The data was originally collected for DiMarco's doctoral dissertation at Case Western Reserve nursing school.

While studies in Brazil, New Zealand, Sweden and Mexico have shown a relationship between obesity, dental health and poverty, few U.S. studies have examined how the three factors are linked.

A pediatric nurse practitioner, DiMarco said dental caries () and obesity outpaced such health issues as asthma among the children studied.

The findings support reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity and poor oral health have doubled since 1980, raising the risk of diabetes and other health problems, as well as issues with self-esteem.

Poverty contributes to poor dental health by limiting access to nutritious food, refrigerators to preserve food and even running water in some homes, said DiMarco, who has seen dental caries as the predominant infectious disease in rural and urban children.

"Many people do not realize ," she said, "that is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from the primary caregiver and siblings to other children."

To help reduce the spread of dental infection, DiMarco reminds parents that gum disease and other oral infections can be spread by licking a child's spoon or baby bottle, or by sharing toothbrushes.

Another problem for children of poverty is access to dental care, where families lack the financial means and transportation to make and keep an appointment. And some working poor may not qualify for Ohio's Childhood Health Insurance Program, which subsidizes health and dental care reimbursements to providers.

"There are no easy solutions," DiMarco said, "especially with the homeless population."

Pediatric nurse practitioners are in a pivotal position to provide health information from birth through the teen years to prevent such health issues, DiMarco said.

Explore further: Poor oral health can mean missed school, lower grades

Related Stories

Poor oral health can mean missed school, lower grades

August 13, 2012
Poor oral health, dental disease, and tooth pain can put kids at a serious disadvantage in school, according to a new Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC study.

Dental school, foster care agency partnership improves child health, aids student training

October 21, 2012
A partnership between a New York City dental school and a local foster care agency has provided consistent dental care to more than 650 children, and may serve as a model for other dental school program curriculums. The success ...

Tiny teeth in tatters

October 27, 2011
The tiny teeth of some of our toddlers are rotting and dental researchers at the University of Sydney are poised to start the second phase of a long-term study to find out why.

Mom's emotional health, education level linked to teen oral health

August 22, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A mother's emotional health and education level during her child's earliest years influence oral health at age 14, according to a new study from Case Western Reserve University's School of Dental Medicine.

Unmet dental needs in Los Angeles children shown in study

May 9, 2011
In 2007, the death of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver from untreated tooth decay exposed the need for better dental care in Maryland families with limited resources. However, the problem ranges beyond a single state, researchers ...

Programs may prevent tooth decay in tots

June 15, 2011
A toddler’s tiny teeth are destined to fall out in later years as their permanent pearly whites grow in. But for some children, especially those from low-income families, cavities and poor oral health lead to complicated ...

Recommended for you

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

Starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

June 22, 2017
New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.