Racial disparities in trajectories of dental caries experience

Jersey Liang, Bei Wu, Brenda Plassman, Joan Bennett, James Beck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives This study charted the trajectories of dental caries, including decayed teeth, missing teeth and filled teeth among older Americans over a 5-year period. In particular, it focused on racial differences in the levels of and rates of change in dental caries experience. Methods Data came from the Piedmont Dental Study. The sample included 810 older Americans who were dentate at the baseline with up to 4 repeated observations between 1988 and 1994. Hierarchical linear models were employed in depicting intrapersonal and interpersonal differences in dental caries experience. Results Different measures of caries outcomes exhibited distinct trajectories. On average, the number of decayed teeth decreased over time, whereas missing teeth increased. In contrast, the number of filled teeth remained stable during a 5-year period. Relative to their white counterparts, older black Americans had more decayed teeth and missing teeth but fewer filled teeth. Blacks and whites differed in the levels of dental caries but not in their rates of change except for missing teeth. Even when demographic and socioeconomic attributes were adjusted, racial variations in dental caries experience remained significant. Conclusions Although significantly correlated, various dental caries outcomes move along different paths over time. In view of the persistent racial disparities in dental caries trajectories, future interventions to minimize such variations among older Americans in the levels of and the rates of change in dental caries experience are clearly warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-525
Number of pages9
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • caries
  • oral health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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