Maternal nutrition and oral health factors in early childhood caries

Sue Etta Daily Cunningham, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood worldwide. Seven of ten American children have one or more decayed or filled primary teeth by age five. ECC prevalence is especially high in lower socio-economic ethnic populations. Commonly recognized as a diet-induced disease, focal etiological factors include cariogenic bacteria, fermentable carbohydrates, and a susceptible newly erupted tooth. Sequencing of breast and/or bottle feeding and introduction of beikost come at a time when children's defense mechanisms and, perhaps maternal direction of children's dietary patterns, are not yet fully developed or mature. To date, most research has examined biological factors, while maternal factors, especially psychosocial ones, have received scant attention. Objective. To examine the association of psychosocial factors in terms of maternal nutrition and oral health knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs, as well as social support and self-efficacy (KABS2) in a population of socio-economically disadvantaged infants and young children. A secondary aim was to describe ECC prevalence in this population. Methods. This study examined cross-sectionally the relationship between selected maternal psychosocial variables and ECC in a convenience sample of Mexican-American women and very young children participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in San Antonio, Texas. Mothers were surveyed by use of a criteria- and content-valid, reliable questionnaire, and dental examinations were conducted on 191 children, aged 5 to 47 months old. Results. Thirty-nine percent of the children had ECC. As assessed on a 30-question scale, women in whose children were diagnosed with ECC were found to demonstrate lower Knowledge ( p=0.03), Attitudes (p=0.02), Beliefs (p=0.04), and Social Support (p<0.01) scores, compared to women whose children were found to be caries-free. No differences in Self-Efficacy scores were found between the groups. Conclusions. These data indicate that current etiological model depicting relevant factors associated with ECC in Mexican-American infants and children of low socio-economic status should be broadened to include consideration of maternal psychosocial factors such as nutrition and oral health knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and social support, and that these factors should be considered when planning educational approaches to reduce the occurrence of ECC.

Subject Area

Dental care|Nutrition|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Cunningham, Sue Etta Daily, "Maternal nutrition and oral health factors in early childhood caries" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3283552.