The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)


Relationships of gender and socioeconomic status with dental caries and early childhood malnutrition in Haitian children

WALTER J. PSOTER.

Epidemiology and Health Promotion, New York University College of Dentistry

Saturday 2:30-2:45, Galleria South Add to calendar

The purpose of this report is to present findings from the 1999 Basic Oral Health Survey (BOHS) of Haiti and a 2005 investigation of the association between early childhood protein-energy malnutrition (ECPEM) and oral conditions. The focus will be on the association of gender and socioeconomic status (SES) with dental caries and ECPEM.

The BOHS used W.H.O. pathfinder methodology for a national survey of caries in 5-7, 12, and 15-year olds. The ECPEM retrospective cohort study utilized measurements of weight-for-age of 1,058 rural Haitian children from birth to five years old in 1988-1996 with oral examinations conducted in 2005. Dental caries index (DMFT) was regressed on gender, age, SES and ECPEM status. A socioeconomic scale composed of 6 factors developed for rural Haiti categorized children as poor, poorer, and poorest.

Permanent dentition caries (DMFT) was associated inversely with ECPEM, positively with SES and had no statistical association with gender. SES correlated with ECPEM levels.

The findings raise questions regarding the conventional wisdom of caries and its relationships with gender, SES and malnutrition. Healthy adolescents had higher DMFT scores. Gender may not be associated with caries or ECPEM in some societies, while very minor differences in “capital” acquisition is an important factor for caries and ECPEM, even in a relatively homogenously impoverished, rural environment as found in Haiti. The finding of health effects defined by minor differences in a SES measure should be of interest to anthropology, while the question of an ECPEM and permanent dentition caries association remains unanswered.

Very minor differences in “capital” acquisition in impoverished rural Haiti is a risk indicator of dental caries and has an apparent protective effect against early childhood malnutrition. Gender was found to not be associated with adolescent caries or ECPEM.

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