Oral health status of children in the Dallas Head Start programs: Healthy start for Texas teeth

O'Neal, Cindy A.
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Dental caries, and more specifically early childhood caries (ECC), is becoming a prominent public health issue for children in low income populations. Assessment of the children (N=137) three to five years of age in the Head Start of Greater Dallas (HSGD) programs was performed to determine their oral health status. Pre-existing data that was collected by the Texas Dental Hygienist's Association in April 2006 was analyzed for the current study. Statistical analysis was performed to determine if there was any association between ethnicity, age, gender and location of HSGD center in relation to dental caries, treatment urgency and ECC. An additional function of the study was to evaluate if the length of time a child was enrolled in the HSGD program or access to care predicted dental caries, ECC or treatment urgency. Results suggest that there was no significant association among ethnicity, age, or gender and dental caries or ECC. When comparing the four HSGD centers that were chosen for the screening, the Oak Cliff center had a higher incidence of dental caries (50.0%) and ECC (47.8%) than the other locations. The results suggested that there was a perfect relationship between dental caries (untreated cavities) and ECC in relation to treatment urgency (p < .0001). There was an indication that 100.0% of the children with dental caries and ECC had a need for early dental care. If dental caries are present, it is expected that dental treatment is needed. The results suggested that the length of time enrolled in the HSGD program did not predict dental caries or treatment urgency and that access to dental care did not predict having better oral health than not having access. Overall, the oral health status of the majority of the children in this HSGD sample population was good or very good. There exists a portion of this population that suffers from some level of poor oral health and will benefit from oral health prevention and intervention programs.

Health and environmental sciences, Early childhood caries, Dental caries