Title: Oral health inequalities in preschool children in North-Eastern Italy as reflected by caries prevalence
Abstract: Aim To investigate dental caries experience among preschool children aged 3-5 years living in 2 Health Districts in North-Eastern Italy and to compare caries experience between indigenous and immigrant children. Study design Cross-sectional observational survey. Methods and statistics In this study 4,198, 3-5-year-old children, drawn from a total population of 9,829 were asked to participate. The examinations were performed at school between October 2004 and June 2005 and only lesions that penetrate the dentine were recorded (according to the BASCD criteria,1997), by 2 calibrated examiners using artificial light, mouth mirrors and dental probes. The participants were categorised into 2 subgroups according to the country of origin of their mothers: indigenous mothers, almost all born in Italy, plus a very small number of mothers born in other highly developed western countries - “western origin” - (Nordic countries, Western Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia), and immigrant mothers from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa, Turkey, South and Central America, “non-western origin”. Comparisons between groups were made using Pearson chi-squared test. Caries risk estimation was established by logistic regression analysis to assess the influence of gender, age and ethnicity on caries experience. Risk was summarised as odds ratio plus 95% CI. Results A total of 3,401 pre-school children were examined. The overall prevalence of dentinal caries was: 15.4% in 3-year-olds, 24.2% in 4-year-olds and 31.1% in 5-year-olds. At the same ages, children of immigrant mothers (“non-western origin”) showed a significantly higher prevalence of caries compared with their counterparts of “western origin”. As expected, older children had more caries. “Non-western origin” had a negative effect on caries experience. Conclusions Inequalities associated with mothers with an immigrant background were observed in the distribution of caries experience among the children. These children represent the first generation settling in and growing up in Italy, and their dental status-related data are comparable to those observed at the same ages in first generation “non-western” children living in other industrialised countries.