A systematic review of literature on socioeconomic disparities in the prevalence of dental caries
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, are a disease of the oral cavity that affects the tooth structure and leads to the occurrence of cavities in teeth. Dental caries are one of the leading chronic diseases in the population and are very common in childhood. If not treated appropriately, dental caries have debilitating effect on the oral and general health of individuals.
Objectives. The aims of this review are to (1) analyze and elucidate the relationship between the social and economic determinants of health like income, education and race/ethnicity and the prevalence of dental caries and (2) identify and understand the pathways/underlying causes through which these factors affect the occurrence of dental caries. This review will provide a foundation for formulation of better oral health policies in future by identifying the key socio-economic factors and pathways affecting the prevalence of dental caries. Knowledge about these socioeconomic factors could be incorporated in the design of future policies and interventions to achieve greater benefits.
Methods. This review includes information from all pertinent articles, reviews, surveys, reports, peer reviewed literature and web sources that were published after 2000. The selection criterion includes literature focusing on individuals between the ages of 1 to 65 years, and individuals from different subgroups of community based on income, education and race/ethnicity. The analyses of literature include identifying if a relationship between income/education/race and the prevalence of dental caries exists by comparing the prevalence of dental caries in different socio-economic groups. Also included in this review are articles that are relevant to the mechanisms/pathways through which income/education/race affect the prevalence of dental caries.
Results. Analyses of available literature suggests that disparities in the prevalence of dental caries may be attributed to differences in income, education and race/ethnicity. Higher prevalence of dental caries was observed in African-American and Mexican-American individuals, and in people with low income and low education. The leading pathways through which the socioeconomic factors affect the prevalence of dental caries are the lack of access to dental care, lack of awareness about good oral hygiene beliefs and habits, oral health, inability to afford dental care, lack of social support to maintain oral health and lack of dental insurance.
Conclusion. Disparities in the prevalence of dental caries exist in various socio-economic groups. The relationship between socio-economic factors and dental caries prevalence should be considered in the development of future policies and interventions that are aimed at reducing the prevalence of dental caries and enhancing oral health status.
0573: Public health
0630: Public policy