Mary Creske


Background: Dental caries is the most common chronic disease of children ages 6 to 11. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 41% of the children in this age group experience decay in their primary teeth. Since 1980 the number of overweight children ages 6 to 11 has doubled. Childhood obesity is currently the most prevalent nutritional condition of children in the U.S.

Purpose: The purpose of this observational study was to determine if there is an association between childhood dental caries and childhood obesity. The study also explored the effects of diet and other covariates.

Method:A sample size of 177 3rd-grade elementary school students participated in this study with participant and parental signed consent. The participants came from three randomly selected elementary schools in southern California's Coachella Valley. Participants were screened for total number of teeth exhibiting dental caries. Their height and weight measurements were taken and their BMI for age determined. The primary care-giver of each participant completed a 30-point questionnaire. Data was gathered to determine demographic, social, psychosocial and dietary habits of the participants and their families. Exploration of the mediating factors and barriers affecting parents in their choices to achieve better oral health for their children utilized the framework of the health belief model. Multivariate analyses were conducted to assess the association between childhood dental caries and weight status and the influences of the measured variables.

Results: Study results indicated that dental caries and obesity coexist in the population and share some common influences. Participants in the overweight category had a positive association with number of carious teeth. Children in the obese category had a statistically significant negative association with number of carious teeth. Covariates that significantly influenced the association were diet, socioeconomic status and the parents' perception of their child's oral health. Parental perceptions of child's weight correlated with child's actual weight but were underestimated.

Conclusion: Childhood dental caries and obesity coexist in the population and share some common risk factors including diet, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Results from this study provide public health professionals with baseline data and literature to support developing preventive programs in scope and design that concomitantly address both obesity and oral health issues. Future studies should be longitudinal in nature to determine the long range affects of variables and should include the development of standardized and validated measurements.


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Naomi Modeste

Second Advisor

David Cort

Third Advisor

Joyce Hopp

Fourth Advisor

Sujatha Rajaram

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Child Nutrition Disorders -- prevention and control; Oral Health -- Child; Dental Caries -- etiology; Body Mass Index -- Child; Obesity -- epidemiology -- United States; Hispanic Americans -- ethnology; School children -- Health and hygiene -- United States



Page Count

xii; 140

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website


Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives