Neighbourhood Determinants of Caries Experience in Preschool Children: A Multilevel Study

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To investigate the association between neighbourhood factors and decayed, missing, and filled teeth (dmft) index among preschool children.


The sample of this cross-sectional study comprised 1,110 children (0-5 years old) clustered in 16 official neighbourhoods of Canoas city, southern Brazil. Multilevel binomial models were used to estimate the association of contextual variables at neighbourhood level (Human Development Index, average income, and public primary health care units) with two oral health outcomes: decayed teeth (dt) and missing or filled teeth (mft), after adjusting for individual variables (gender, age, maternal education, equivalent household income logarithm, household, and point of care).


Overall, 24.9% of the sample had dental caries experience (dmft >0), and 92.3% of the dmft was untreated caries. There was no statistical significant association (p > 0.05) of contextual characteristics with the decay component. The teeth of children living in richer areas had 2.87 (95% CI: 1.05-7.86) times more chances of being treated (mft component). Variance attributed to neighbourhood level was estimated as 5.9% (p < 0.01) and 4.1% (p = 0.17) for dt and mft, respectively, in adjusted models.


Intra-urban areas seem homogeneous, with small variability between neighbourhoods, having no contextual effect on untreated dental caries (dt). Contextual variables may influence treatment access (mft) through the use of dental services in preschool children.

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