Objectives: We examined associations of household socioeconomic status (SES) and food security with children's oral health outcomes.
Methods: We analyzed 2007 and 2008 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data for children aged 5 to 17 years (n = 2206) to examine the relationship between food security and untreated dental caries and to assess whether food security mediates the SES-caries relationship.
Results: About 20.1% of children had untreated caries. Most households had full food security (62%); 13% had marginal, 17% had low, and 8% had very low food security. Higher SES was associated with significantly lower caries prevalence (prevalence ratio [PR] = 0.77; 95% confidence interval = 0.63, 0.94; P = .01). Children from households with low or very low food security had significantly higher caries prevalence (PR = 2.00 and PR = 1.70, respectively) than did children living in fully food-secure households. Caries prevalence did not differ among children from fully and marginally food-secure households (P = .17). Food insecurity did not appear to mediate the SES-caries relationship.
Conclusions: Interventions and policies to ensure food security may help address the US pediatric caries epidemic.