Dental Caries: Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among North Carolina Kindergarten Students

Go Matsuo; Rozier, R. Gary; Kranz, Ashley M.
December 2015
American Journal of Public Health;Dec2015, Vol. 105 Issue 12, p2503
Academic Journal
Objectives. We examined racial/ethnic disparities in dental caries among kindergarten students in North Carolina and the cross-level effects between students' race/ethnicity and school poverty status. Methods. We adjusted the analysis of oral health surveillance information (2009-2010) for individual-, school-, and county-level variables. We included a cross-level interaction of student's race/ethnicity (White, Black, Hispanic) and school National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation (< 75% vs ≥75% of students), which we used as a compositional school-level variable measuring poverty among families of enrolled students. Results. Among 70 089 students in 1067 schools in 95 counties, the prevalence of dental caries was 30.4% for White, 39.0% for Black, and 51.7% for Hispanic students. The adjusted difference in caries experience between Black and White students was significantly greater in schools with NSLP participation of less than 75%. Conclusions. Racial/ethnic oral health disparities exist among kindergarten students in North Carolina as a whole and regardless of school's poverty status. Furthermore, disparities between White and Black students are larger in non-poor schools than in poor schools. Further studies are needed to explore causal pathways that might lead to these disparities.


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