Multiple Socioeconomic Factors and Dental Caries in Swedish Children and Adolescents

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The study aimed to explore associations between multiple socioeconomic factors and dental caries experience in Swedish children and adolescents (3-19 years old). Electronic dental records from 300,988, in a Swedish region (97.3% coverage) were collected using the DMFT indices (decayed, missing, filled teeth: dependent variables). Socioeconomic status (SES) data (ethnicity, wealth, parental education, and employment) for individuals, parents, and families were obtained from official registers. Principal component analysis was used to explore SES data. Scores based on the first factor were used as an independent aggregated socioeconomic variable in logistic regression analyses. Dental caries experience was low in the participants: 16% in 3- to 6-year-olds (deft index: decayed, extracted, filled teeth) and 47% in 7- to 19-year-olds (DFT index). Both separate and aggregated socioeconomic variables were consistently associated with the dental caries experience irrespective of the caries index used: the crude odds ratio (OR) for having at least 1 caries lesion in 3- to 6-year-olds (deft index) in the lowest SES quintile was 3.26 (95% confidence interval [CI] 3.09-3.43) and in ≥7-year-olds (DFT index) OR 1.80 (95% CI 1.75-1.84) compared with children in the 4 higher SES quintiles. Overall, associations were stronger in the primary dentition than in the permanent dentition. Large SES models contributed more to explaining the caries experience than slim models including fewer SES indicators. In conclusion, socioeconomic factors were consistently associated with dental caries experience in the children and adolescents both as single factors and as multiple factors combined in an index. Socioeconomic inequalities had stronger associations to caries experience in young children than in older children and adolescents.

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