The relationship between healthful eating practices and dental caries in children aged 2-5 years in the United States, 1988-1994.
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BACKGROUND: As a result of the introduction of multiple fluoride vehicles and other preventive agents, caries prevalence rates in young children have been declining over the past two decades in the United States. However, changing dietary patterns in young children may offset some of the oral health benefits of fluoridation. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between caries in primary teeth and healthful eating practices in young children.
METHODS: The authors used data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to investigate the relationship between healthful eating practices (such as breast-feeding, eating breakfast and consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables a day) and dental caries (untreated tooth decay and overall caries experience) in the primary dentition among children aged 2 through 5 years.
RESULTS: The odds of experiencing caries in primary teeth were significantly greater in nonpoor children who did not eat breakfast daily or ate fewer than five servings of fruit and vegetables per day (odds ratio, or OR = 3.77; 95 percent confidence interval, or CI, 1.80 to 7.89 and OR = 3.21; 95 percent CI, 1.74 to 5.95, respectively). No association was found between breast-feeding and caries in primary teeth.
CONCLUSION: Young children with poor eating habits are more likely to experience caries. Overall, the findings support the notion that dental health education should encourage parents, primary caregivers and policy-makers to promote healthful eating practices, such as eating breakfast daily, for young children.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Dental professionals are well-positioned to inform parents and caregivers regarding age-appropriate healthful eating practices for young children entrusted in their care.