Original Research

Rural–urban disparities in the distribution of dental caries among children in south-eastern Louisiana: a cross-sectional study


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Hasheemah Afaneh1
MPH, Project Coordinator *

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Madhav KC2
MPH, PhD Student

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Alexandra Lieberman3
MPH, Clinical Researcher

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Ashley Fenton4
MS, PhD Student

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Sydney Santa Ana5
BS, Contact Tracer

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Lisa Staples6
MPH, CHES, Oral Health Lead

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J Michael Conner7

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Edward Peters8
DMD, ScD, Professor and Program Chair of Epidemiology Program


1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8 Department of Epidemiology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Public Health, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

4 Department of Behavioral and Community Health Science, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Public Health, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

6 Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry, New Orleans, LA 70119, USA

ACCEPTED: 5 August 2020

early abstract:

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.