Malnourishment in a population of young children with severe early childhood caries

Pediatr Dent. May-Jun 2006;28(3):254-9.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe the nutritional status of children with severe early childhood caries (S-ECC) using several clinical measurements.

Methods: Children aged 2 to 6 years with S-ECC were measured for height, weight, triceps skinfolds (TSF), and measurement of upper mid-arm circumference (MAC). Blood samples assessed: (1) hemoglobin; (2) mean corpuscular volume (MCV); (3) serum ferritin; and (4) serum albumin. Weight-for-height was converted into ideal body weight (IBW) percentiles. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated as kg/m2. TSF and MAC were converted into measurement of arm muscle circumference (MAMC). All measurements were compared with population reference values.

Results: Using weight for height centiles, 17% were diagnosed as being malnourished and 66% as within normal limits. Using BMI centiles, only 4% were identified as being malnourished and 75% as being normal. Conversely, the body fat of 24% was assessed as low (<10th percentile). Serum albumin was low for 16%. The majority had evidence of inadequate iron intake with low serum ferritin (80%), iron depletion (24%), iron deficiency (6%), or iron deficiency anemia (11%).

Conclusions: All tests detected levels of malnutrition, with blood tests finding the most severe cases. The results suggest that severe Early Childhood Caries may be a risk marker for iron deficiency anemia. Since iron deficiency has permanent effects on growth and development, pediatric dentists should recommend assessment of iron levels in S-ECC patients regardless of their anthropometric appearance.

MeSH terms

  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Caries / complications*
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / blood
  • Malnutrition / diagnosis
  • Malnutrition / etiology*
  • Serum Albumin / analysis
  • Skinfold Thickness


  • Hemoglobins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Ferritins