Survey of dental nutrition knowledge of WIC nutritionists and public health dental hygienists

J Am Diet Assoc. 1995 Feb;95(2):190-4. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(95)00047-x.


Objective: To assess two groups' knowledge of the role of diet in the etiology of dental caries: nutritionists in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and public health dental hygienists.

Design: A self-administered survey contained questions about the cause of dental caries, the importance of caries-preventive measures, dietary factors linked to dental caries, dietary advice for patients with active dental caries, and diet-related topics discussed with clients.

Subjects: Surveys were sent to all WIC nutritionists and public health dental hygienists in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Of the 235 surveys mailed, 188 completed surveys composed the final sample.

Statistical analyses performed: Descriptive tests, means and frequencies, and the chi 2 test were used to measure differences in nutritionists' and hygienists' responses.

Results: One half of the nutritionists and three fourths of the hygienists recognized that dental caries was caused by a bacterial infection. Most dental researchers consider fluoride exposure and dental sealants to be highly effective caries-preventive measures; in contrast, WIC nutritionists and dental hygienists identified oral hygiene as being most important in preventing caries. Frequency of snacking and retentiveness of food in the mouth were accurately rated important dietary factors in the development of dental caries by both groups. However, limiting intake of fermentable carbohydrates between meals was not considered the most important dietary advice for clients.

Applications: Results suggest that current research about the role of diet in the prevention of dental caries should be included in both nutrition and dental hygiene curriculums and continuing education courses for these professionals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Bottle Feeding / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Caries / etiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Dental Hygienists*
  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects
  • Dietetics*
  • Fluoridation
  • Fluorides / administration & dosage
  • Fluorides / pharmacology
  • Fluorides, Topical
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Fluorides, Topical
  • Pit and Fissure Sealants
  • Fluorides