Family expenditures on food for children may represent an important barrier to the adoption of healthy feeding practices in populations of low socioeconomic status. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between cariogenic feeding practices, expenditures on food for children and dental caries. This cross-sectional study included 329 four-year-old children from São Leopoldo in southern Brazil. Cariogenic dietary practices were assessed at 4 years of age using two 24-hour recalls conducted with the children's mothers. Expenditures on food for children were estimated based on all reported food items and the respective amounts ingested. Early childhood caries and severe early childhood caries were assessed by clinical examination at 4 years of age. Cariogenic dietary habits were not associated with lower food expenditures. On the contrary, in multivariable regression analysis, the intake of chocolate (p = 0.007), soft drinks (p = 0.027) and a higher number of meals and snacks per day (p < 0.001) was associated with greater expenditures on food for children. No statistically significant differences were observed in food expenditures or in the proportion of household income spent on feeding children between caries-free children, those with early childhood caries and those with severe early childhood caries. In conclusion, keeping children free of dental caries does not necessarily increase food expenditures or the proportion of household income spent on feeding children in low-socioeconomic status populations. Some cariogenic dietary practices were associated with greater expenditures on child feeding.
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