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Am J Public Health. 2015 Dec;105(12):2503-9. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2015.302884. Epub 2015 Oct 15.

Dental Caries: Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among North Carolina Kindergarten Students.

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At the time of the study, Go Matsuo was with the Oral Health Section, Division of Public Health, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Raleigh. R. Gary Rozier is with the Department of Health Policy and Management, Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Ashley M. Kranz is with the School of Dentistry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.



We examined racial/ethnic disparities in dental caries among kindergarten students in North Carolina and the cross-level effects between students' race/ethnicity and school poverty status.


We adjusted the analysis of oral health surveillance information (2009-2010) for individual-, school-, and county-level variables. We included a cross-level interaction of student's race/ethnicity (White, Black, Hispanic) and school National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation (< 75% vs ≥ 75% of students), which we used as a compositional school-level variable measuring poverty among families of enrolled students.


Among 70,089 students in 1067 schools in 95 counties, the prevalence of dental caries was 30.4% for White, 39.0% for Black, and 51.7% for Hispanic students. The adjusted difference in caries experience between Black and White students was significantly greater in schools with NSLP participation of less than 75%.


Racial/ethnic oral health disparities exist among kindergarten students in North Carolina as a whole and regardless of school's poverty status. Furthermore, disparities between White and Black students are larger in nonpoor schools than in poor schools. Further studies are needed to explore causal pathways that might lead to these disparities.

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