Associations of ethnicity/race and socioeconomic status with early childhood caries patterns

Walter J. Psoter, David G. Pendrys, Douglas E. Morse, Heping Zhang, Susan T. Mayne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The purpose of this project was to evaluate ethnicity/race, household income and caregiver education level as predictors of 1) any early childhood caries, and 2) each of four proposed patterns of primary dentition caries. Methods: Between February 1994 and September 1995, five examiners visually examined Arizona pre-school children ages 5-59 months old. Self-reported demographic information including family income, caregiver education level and ethnicity/race were obtained at the time of examination. Multivariate analyses were conducted to assess the association of income, education and ethnicity/race with a child having any caries and with each of the proposed caries patterns seen in 3,850 examinations. Results: Income and education were inversely associated with: 1) any early childhood caries, and 2) the maxillary incisor caries pattern. A positive association between these caries patterns and minority ethnicity/race status was also identified. Three additional caries intraoral patterns demonstrated more varied associations with socioeconomic status (SES), ethnicity/race and income and education. Conclusions: This study supports the association of both ethnicity/race and social status with any early childhood caries. The patterns of caries were each found to be associated with specific and different socioeconomic-demographic indicators. The practical importance of these findings is that global measurement of ECC, without regard to specific caries pattern, leads to the potential for substantial non-differential misclassification of disease. The consequence of this is the potential for important ECC-SES-ethnicity/race associations to be masked. This, in turn, decreases the ability of surveys and investigations to accurately identify sub-groups of the population at greatest risk of developing ECC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of public health dentistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Caries
  • Caries patterns
  • ECC
  • Early childhood
  • Ethnicity
  • Primary dentition
  • Race
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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