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Int J Paediatr Dent. 2003 May;13(3):150-7.

Oral health status in relation to ethnicity of children in the Municipality of Copenhagen, Denmark.

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  • 1Municipal Dental Service, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Approximately 25% of children under the age of 18 in the Municipality of Copenhagen have a non-Danish ethnic background, and it is suspected that there may be major inequalities in oral health as a result.


The objectives of this study were to describe the occurrence of dental caries in different ethnic minorities, and to analyse whether the dental caries experience of the children may be affected by cultural and behavioural differences.


The study was conducted in Copenhagen as a cross-sectional investigation of 794 children, aged 3 and 5 years old (preschool), 7 years old (Grade 1) and 15 years old (Grade 9). Children of Danish, Turkish, Pakistani, Albanian, Somali and Arabian backgrounds were selected by convenience sampling. Epidemiological data were retrieved from the Danish Recording System for the Public Dental Health Services (SCOR) and sociological data were collected by postal questionnaires.


Marked differences in dental caries prevalence were observed when different ethnic minorities were compared to Danish children. These were most prominent for the primary dentition. At age 7, 53% of the Danish and 84% of the Albanian children were affected by dental caries, the mean caries experience was 3.5 dmfs (decayed, missed and filled surfaces) and 13.8 dmfs, respectively. Caries in incisors and/or smooth surfaces was observed in 10% of the Danish children and 48% of the Albanian children. There were cultural differences in dental attendance and self-care practices of children and parents. These socio-behavioural factors may help to explain the differences in dental caries prevalence and severity.


Development of appropriate oral health promotion strategies is urgently needed to improve oral health behaviour and attitudes of parents and children of ethnic minorities. Preventive programs should be organized at local community level in close collaboration with key persons of ethnic minority societies.

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