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

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

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  • 1Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA.



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


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.


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.


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.

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