Caries Risk and Social Determinants of Health: A Big Data Report

Published 12/12/2022

In this study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers at CareQuest Institute and the University of Colorado found that individuals living in areas with greater social deprivation had higher caries risk. Although the fact is well-known, the authors said, it is rarely examined.  

Oral Health Equity and Social Determinants 

The researchers analyzed the association between caries risk and social determinants of health, including the Social Deprivation Index (SDI) — a composite measure of neighborhood-level deprivation that incorporates characteristics based on income, education, housing status, and employment.  

Additional key findings include: 

  • Black and Hispanic people living in areas of greater social deprivation had higher risk of caries. 
  • Caries risk level increased with age and reached a peak at ages 49 to 64. 
  • Men were at higher risk of caries than women. 
  • Patients with diabetes and heart disease were at higher risk of caries. 
  • Individuals who paid for dental care through self-pay, the Veterans Administration, or workers’ compensation had a higher caries risk compared with those with private or public insurance. 

This study shows the association of caries risk with higher social deprivation and reinforces the role of structural and upstream factors in oral health equity. 

Read the article in the Journal of the American Dental Association (open access)  

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