Background: Socio-economic factors are considered as main determinants causing disparities in oral health across different countries. The aim of the present study was to investigate the associations of social and economic factors with dental caries experience among 6- and 12-year-old Iranian children.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, a total of 31,146 students, aged 6 and 12 years old, were enrolled from all (31) provinces in Iran. Based on the standardized World Health Organization (WHO) criteria for oral health surveys, dental caries indices in primary and permanent teeth were assessed by clinical examination in schools. Data on socio-economic status was obtained from the modified WHO questionnaire and national data bank. The decayed, missing and filled teeth (dmft/DMFT) indices for primary and permanent dentition were compared at the individual and provincial levels using multilevel regression analysis. Poisson regression analysis was used to evaluate the association of social (demographic and behavioral) determinants with dental caries indices among individuals. To assess the causes of difference in dental caries indices across provinces, justifiable economic factors were also analyzed using poisson regression analysis.
Results: The mean (SE) of dmft and DMFT were 5.84 (0.05) and 1.84 (0.03), for 6-and 12-year-old children, respectively. The differences of dental caries indices were statistically significant among provinces. Higher level of parental education was negatively related to dental caries indices of both age groups. Rural residency was positively and dental flossing was reversely associated with dmft index of 6-year-old children. Negative associations were found between frequency of tooth brushing and preventive dental utilization with dmft and DMFT indices. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) index had negative and Consumer Price Index (CPI) had positive associations with dmft and DMFT indices in both age groups. However, positive relationships were observed between Gini index with DMFT index among 12-year-old children; as well as between the number of dentists per capita with dmft index among 6-year-old children.
Conclusion: Socio-demographic and behavioral factors were found to be associated with dental caries experience. However, economic indicators had the greatest importance.
Keywords: Dental caries; Multilevel analysis; Socio-economic factors.