Inequalities in dental health are most evident in young children

April 11, 2018, University of Gothenburg
Inequalities in dental health are most evident in young children
Ann-Catrin Andre Kramer, doctor of dental medicine and a registered dental hygienist. Credit: Sahlgrenska Academy

Inequalities in dental health are most evident in 3 to 6-year-old children, according to a thesis at Sahlgrenska Academy. Preschoolers in socioeconomically disadvantaged families had a more than four times higher risk of tooth decay compared to age cohorts with better living conditions.

"We shouldn't forget that most kids have healthy teeth, but there is a minor group of children who we see at the dental clinic repeatedly, and who have a lot of cavities," says Ann-Catrin André Kramer, a doctor of dental medicine and a registered dental hygienist.

In the course of her thesis work she studied the of 300,988 individuals aged 3 to 19 years in the Västra Götaland region. The analyses are based on data from the Swedish Public Dental Service and private dental care providers that treat children and young people in the region, as well as information from Statistics Sweden (SCB), including for instance information about household finances and education level.

The research confirms that from an international perspective, children and young people in Sweden generally have good dental health. However, despite the fact that the Swedish government has provided free dental care to children and for decades, large discrepancies in dental health do exist.

Children and adolescents living in rural areas had a lower risk of cavities than their age cohorts in larger towns and cities. There were also differences in caries experience among children of different genders.

"It was interesting that the girls had a lower risk of cavities than boys during adolescence, with a reverse pattern before adolescence when girls exhibited a higher risk for caries experience compared to boys. This trend had not been observed previously," notes Ann-Catrin André Kramer."The question is whether this pattern can be linked to behavior such as diet and oral hygiene habits, or if something biological is occurring in the body," she continues. "As yet, we have no answers, but the pattern is definitely there, and we really need to investigate it further."

Ten percent of 7 to 9-year-olds exhibited tooth decay in their permanent teeth, and two-thirds of older teenagers had cavities or fillings. The results of the thesis indicate that children in families with limited socioeconomic resources were most at risk of caries experience. This was especially true of preschool-aged children.

A smaller sub-study also tracked the dental health of young children during their preschool years. The findings showed that children who already had cavities when they were 3 years old had developed considerably more tooth decay by the time they turned 6, compared to children who were cavity-free at the start of the study. Only half of the included in the study showed no signs of in their primary teeth by the time they reached 6 years of age.

"This situation is very demanding for both patients and dentists, and we need to consider how we can reach the groups who are most in need of . Perhaps we can further develop inter-professional efforts and work with other healthcare professionals and schools to remedy this problem. Children should be taught that brushing their teeth is every bit as important as washing their hands, which is something they learn to do at a young age," concludes Ann-Catrin André Kramer.

Explore further: What outcomes are associated with early preventive dental care among Medicaid-enrolled children in Alabama

More information: On dental caries and socioeconomy in Swedish children and adolescents - clinical and register-based studies, hdl.handle.net/2077/54528

Related Stories

What outcomes are associated with early preventive dental care among Medicaid-enrolled children in Alabama

February 27, 2017
Preventive dental care provided by a dentist for children before the age of 2 enrolled in Medicaid in Alabama was associated with more frequent subsequent treatment for tooth decay, more visits and more spending on dental ...

Lack of guidance may delay a child's first trip to the dentist

February 19, 2018
Without a doctor or dentist's guidance, some parents don't follow national recommendations for early dental care for their children, a new national poll finds.

Research explores lasting effects of early preventive dental care in Medicaid-enrolled children

March 13, 2017
Research out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health suggests preventive dental care provided by a dentist for children before the age of 2 enrolled in Medicaid in Alabama may lead to more care ...

Health of primary teeth an early predictor of adult teeth

January 8, 2018
Do children really need their baby teeth? Many believe that primary teeth aren't all that important. After all, they typically fall out by age 12, and new, adult teeth take their place.

CDC urges dental sealants for all low-income children

October 19, 2016
(HealthDay)—Treatments that seal a child's back teeth can prevent most cavities, but many children—particularly those living in poverty—don't get them, according to research published in the Oct. 18 early-release issue ...

Social deprivation sits at the heart of children's oral decay

September 8, 2017
A study of 347 children in Plymouth aged between four and six years has shown that social deprivation is an indicator of increased risk of dental decay in children. However, obesity was not associated with decay in this group ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover cellular messengers communicate with bacteria in the mouth

May 8, 2018
A new UCLA-led study provides clear evidence that cellular messengers in saliva may be able to regulate the growth of oral bacteria responsible for diseases, such as periodontitis and meningitis.

Drug-filled, 3-D printed dentures could fight off infections

April 25, 2018
Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. denture-wearing population suffer frequent fungal infections that cause inflammation, redness and swelling in the mouth.

Bacteria boost antifungal drug resistance in severe childhood tooth decay

April 25, 2018
Early childhood caries, a form of severe tooth decay affecting toddlers and preschoolers, can set children up for a lifetime of dental and health problems. The problem can be significant enough that surgery is the only effective ...

Absence of a transcription factor halts tooth development in mid-stride

April 11, 2018
Amjad Javed, Ph.D., and University of Alabama at Birmingham colleagues have found a key role in tooth development for the transcription factor Specificity protein 7, or Sp7.

Toothpaste alone does not prevent dental erosion or hypersensitivity

March 14, 2018
The rising prevalence of dental erosion and dentin hypersensitivity has led to the emergence of more toothpastes that claim to treat these problems. While no such toothpaste existed 20 years ago, today, many such brands are ...

Study: Absence of key protein, TTP, rapidly turns young bones old

March 10, 2018
The absence of a protein critical to the control of inflammation may lead to rapid and severe bone loss, according to a new University at Buffalo study.

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.