Purpose: The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to assess the prevalence of dental caries among elementary school-aged children in rural compared to urban communities within Southeast Louisiana that have participated in a school-based dental screening and sealant program.
Methods: We utilized de-identified SEALS screening data from 2007-2014 provided by THEN oral health program. The screening was conducted throughout 46 elementary schools throughout Louisiana. Screening forms recorded the presence of DMFT. Descriptive statistics including demographic characteristics and oral health conditions were calculated using SAS 9.4. Univariate and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to assess the burden of caries in schools.
Findings: Of 963 children screened, 32% had dental caries. There was an increased risk of having any DMFT among children who attended rural schools as compared to those who attended urban schools (POR=2.17, 95% CI=1.61-2.93). This study found that non-Hispanic black children had reduced odds of DMFT as compared to the children from other reported ethnicities (POR=0.695, 95% CI=0.503-0.960).
Conclusions: A higher prevalence of dental caries was found in rural compared to urban communities. Further research is needed to assess the extent of geographic differences to improve oral health outcomes.