Community dental health vol:18 issue:4 pages:256-62
OBJECTIVES: The study aimed to investigate differences in the oral health of 7-year-old Flemish children by the parents' occupational class and to explore behavioural and demographic factors linked to social inequalities in oral health. PARTICIPANTS: A stratified cluster sample of 1,500 primary school children in Flanders, born in 1989. METHOD: The clinical oral examination was performed in the first year of a longitudinal oral health project in Flanders (1996-2001) by 16 calibrated examiners. Information on occupational level of the parents and on oral health related behaviour was gained, respectively, by the school health care centres and the parents of the children using a structured questionnaire. RESULTS: The mean dmf values between the several SES groups, assessed by occupational status of the parents, were significantly different (P<0.001). The mean dmft and dmfs values were the lowest for the most advantaged children (1.3/2.7) and were threefold higher in the least advantaged children (3.9/9.1). The prevalence of caries-free children was 2.5 times higher among the highest SES families compared with the lowest SES families. In a logistic regression model adjusted for the stratification factors, the excess risk for caries in children increased with decreasing occupational level of the parents. There was a cumulative effect of decreasing occupational level and oral health habits on the caries prevalence. CONCLUSION: The results of the study allow the supposition that social inequalities in oral health among children exist in Flanders. Environmental factors and individual behavioural factors partially explain why social class might influence oral health.