South African Medical Journal

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Nutritional status and dental caries in a large sample of 4- and 5-year-old South African children

Peter Cleaton-Jones, Barbara D Richardson, Lars Granath, L Paul Fatti, Ruth Sinwell, Alexander R Walker, Mirriam Mogotsi


Background. Evidence from studies involving small samples of children in Africa, India and South America suggests a higher dental caries rate in malnourished children. A comparison was done to evaluate wasting and stunting and their association with dental caries in four samples of South African children.
Design. Cross-sectional study based on random sampling of birth records of two age bands.
Methods. A total of 2 728 4- and 5-year-old South African children from one rural community and three urban. communities were examined for nutritional status and dental caries.
Results. In the total sample prevalences of wasting were mild (28%), moderate (4%) and severe (2%). For stunting the prevalences were mild (13%), moderate (3%) and severe (1%). For both conditions rural children showed higher proportions than the other groups. Statistical analysis showed statistically significant differences for wasting and stunting between the study groups. No significant association was found between the prevalence of caries and stunting or wasting, but an association was noted between wasting and decayed, missing and filled (drnf) surfaces (P = 0.003).
Conclusions. In the series of children studied, nutritional status was not found to be clinically relevant to dental caries prevalence and experience.

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