Objective: To assess the relationship between African-American caregivers' and children's caries levels adjusting for sociodemographic factors.
Methods: A representative sample of 1021 children (0-5 years) and their caregivers were recruited using a stratified two-stage area probability sample of households in Detroit. The response rate was 73.7%. Caries was measured using the International Caries Detection and Assessment System. Caries was defined as D1S/d1s (noncavitated) or D2S/d2s (cavitated lesions) for both caregivers and children. Sociodemographic data included caregivers' employment status, sex, age, income and education. Negative binomial regression techniques were used for the multivariable analyses because of the highly skewed distribution of caries among the children.
Results: 48% of the children were male, 39% had employed caregivers, 46% had caregivers with less than a high school education and 44% had family incomes less than $10,000. A total of 47% of the children had at least one noncavitated lesion and 31% had a cavitated lesion. Younger children (ages 0-3 years) had lower caries rates with 24% having one or more noncavitated lesion,18% having a cavitated lesion and 31% with any lesion compared with 78%, 51% and 81%, respectively, among the 4- to 5-year olds. Because of these differences in prevalence in the age groups, subsequent analyses were conducted separately for the two age groups. Multivariable analyses found that the number of cavitated surfaces among the caregivers was significantly related to the number of cavitated and noncavitated lesions among their children for both age groups. The prevalence of children's caries increased with increasing caregivers' caries score when demographic characteristics of caregivers were controlled. Younger children with family incomes of less than $10,000 had a significantly increased risk of higher caries prevalence compared with children in families with incomes greater than or equal to $20,000.
Conclusions: Caregivers' caries levels were modestly correlated with children's caries. However, higher caries prevalence among caregivers significantly increased the risk of caries prevalence among their children. Thus, efforts aimed at improving caregiver's oral health could result in reducing caries risk among their children, regardless of whether the mechanism was biologically or behaviorally based. Efforts also should be aimed directly at reducing caries risk among children by increasing fluoride exposure among children and improving access to preventive dental care. Finally, even the poorest of the poor experienced additional health disadvantages associated with income suggesting even small increases in family income raising families could have a significant effect on reducing caries risk among young children.