Explaining racial/ethnic disparities in children's dental health: a decomposition analysis

Am J Public Health. 2012 May;102(5):859-66. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300548. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


Objectives: We measured racial/ethnic inequalities in US children's dental health and quantified the contribution of conceptually relevant factors.

Methods: Using data from the 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, we investigated racial/ethnic disparities in selected child dental health and preventive care outcomes. We employed a decomposition model to quantify demographic, socioeconomic, maternal health, health insurance, neighborhood, and geographic effects.

Results: Hispanic children had the poorest dental health and lowest preventive dental care utilization, followed by Black then White children. The model explanatory variables accounted for 58% to 77% of the disparities in dental health and 89% to 100% of the disparities in preventive dental care. Socioeconomic status accounted for 71% of the gap in preventive dental care between Black children and White children and 55% of that between Hispanic children and White children. Maternal health, age, and marital status; neighborhood safety and social capital; and state of residence were relevant factors.

Conclusions: Reducing US children's racial/ethnic dental health disparities-which are mostly socioeconomically driven-requires policies that recognize the multilevel pathways underlying them and the need for household- and neighborhood-level interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Oral Health / ethnology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data