Objectives: To determine the prevalence of dental caries and oral health disparities in San Francisco kindergarten public school children from 2000-2005.
Methods: The San Francisco Department of Public Health in partnership with the San Francisco Dental Society and assistance from the National Dental Association, has been conducting annual dental screenings of kindergarten children enrolled in the San Francisco Unified School District since 2000. Outcomes assessed from this series of cross-sectional screenings included prevalence of caries experience, untreated caries, treatment needs, and caries severity by child's sex, race/ethnicity, residential zip code, and a proxy for socioeconomic status.
Results: Of 76 eligible schools, 62-72 participated, and 86-92% of enrolled children (n=3,354-3,527) were screened yearly. Although there was a small, significant decrease over the time period, in 2005, 50.1% of children had caries experience; 28.8% had untreated caries and 7.6% had urgent treatment needs. Each year caries prevalence was greatest for Asian children, those attending schools with > 50% children eligible for the free or reduced-price meal program, and children living in zip codes in and around Chinatown and San Francisco's southern border.
Conclusions: Despite signs of improvement, caries remains a public health problem especially in Asian and Hispanic children, and children living in certain sections of San Francisco.