Objective: To investigate the effect of socio-economic status, sugar, snack consumption and vending machine use on the prevalence and severity of caries (DMF) in children.
Design: An observational study was carried out in a dental practice in inner city London. Sixty children were asked to complete a questionnaire and a three day food and drink diary. After a dental examination the number of decayed (D), missing (M) or filled (F) teeth provided a DMF score. Anova and Pearsons correlations were used to analyse the data statistically.
Results: Children from social groups I and II consumed significantly less (P < 0.05) sugar, confectionery, crisps and used a vending machine less often than children from other social groups. Children from Social groups I, II and III had significantly lower DMF scores. The average DMF from social group I children was 0.5 +/- 0.6, whilst group IV children had the greatest incidence and a DMF of 4.6 +/- 0.8. Significant correlations were identified between DMF and sugar, confectionery and crisp consumption and vending machine use, and a negative correlation between DMF and vegetable consumption.
Conclusions: Socio-economic status and access to vending machines were found to have a significant effect on sugar intakes, foods choices, and dental health. The removal of vending machines from schools or at least installing 'healthy' vending machines is recommended. Health promotion programmes that account for social groups and snacking habits that are cost effective are required.