Caregiver's education level and child's dental caries in African Americans: a path analytic study.Caries Res. 2015; 49(2):177-83.CR
The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of caregiver education level on children's dental caries mediated by both caregiver and child oral health behaviors. Participants were 423 low-income African American kindergarteners and their caregivers who were part of a school-based randomized clinical trial. Path analysis tested the hypothesis that caregiver education level affected untreated dental caries and cumulative overall caries experience (decayed or filled teeth) through the mediating influence of frequency of dental visits, use of routine care, and frequency of toothbrushing for both the caregiver and the child. The results supported the hypothesis: caregivers who completed high school were 1.76 times more likely to visit dentists compared with those who did not complete high school (e(0.56) = 1.76, 95% CI: 1.03-2.99), which in turn was associated with 5.78 times greater odds of dental visits among their children (e(1.76) = 5.78, 95% CI: 3.53-9.48). Children's dental visits, subsequently, were associated with 26% fewer untreated decayed teeth compared with children without dental visits (e(-0.31) = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.60-0.91). However, this path was not present in the model with overall caries experience. Additionally, caregiver education level was directly associated with 34% less untreated decayed teeth (e(-0.42) = 0.66, 95% CI: 0.54-0.79) and 28% less decayed or filled teeth (e(-0.32) = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.60-0.88) among the children. This study overcomes important conceptual and analytic limitations in the existing literature. The findings confirm the role of caregiver education in child dental caries and indicate that caregiver's behavioral factors are important mediators of child oral health.