Background: While national surveys have found that African-Americans have a higher prevalence and severity of dental caries than white-Americans, there are only a few descriptive studies of the prevalence and severity of dental caries in low-income urban African-Americans.
Objectives: This study assessed the prevalence, severity and determinants of dental caries, using the International Caries Detection and Assessment System (ICDAS).
Methods: A representative sample of low-income families (a caregiver and a child aged 0-5 years) was selected from low-income census tracts in the city of Detroit, Michigan. Of the 12,655 randomly selected housing units, 10,695 were occupied and 9781 were successfully contacted (91.5%). There were 1386 families with eligible children in the contacted households; and of those, 1021 were interviewed and examined at a permanent examination center organized for this study. This represents an overall response rate of 73.7%. At the center, trained staff interviewed the main caregivers of the selected children, and trained and calibrated dentists examined the caregiver and her/his child. Data used in this study included information gathered from the social, behavioral and parenting questionnaires, the Block Food Frequency Questionnaire (total sugar intake), and data collected from community and census databases.
Results: Over 90% of the adults (ages 14-70 years, average 29.3) had at least one noncavitated carious lesion and 82.2% had at least one primary cavitated lesion. Negative binomial regression models found that the age of caregivers and the number of churches in neighborhoods were negatively associated with the number of noncavitated tooth surfaces. Cavitated tooth surfaces were positively associated with age, oral hygiene status, being worried about teeth, a recent visit to a dentist, and the number of grocery stores in the neighborhoods. However, the number of cavitated tooth surfaces was negatively associated with preventive dental visits, positive rating of oral health status and the number of dentists in a community.
Conclusions: Dental caries, especially at the noncavitated stage, is highly prevalent in low-income African-American adults in Detroit. A significant increase in the mean number of missing teeth was observed after the age of 34 years. This study found that different individual, social, and community risk indicators were associated with noncavitated versus cavitated tooth surfaces.