Poverty Spurs Obesity and Dental Cavities among Homeless Children

Homeless children living below the poverty level were increasingly prone obesity and dental caries as they age in a study conducted by nurse researchers from the Case Western Reserve University and University of Akron.

The findings were published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care in the article “Childhood obesity and dental caries in homeless children.” Researchers examined the physicals of the 157 children, ages 2 to 17, who lived at an urban homeless shelter. Most of the subjects were from single-parent families headed by a woman with one or two children. The study concluded that as body mass index increased with age in the children, so did the number of cavities.

Researcher Marguerite DiMarco, associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, said that poverty contributes to poor dental health by limiting access to nutritious food, refrigerators to preserve food and even running water in some homes. Another contributor to poor dental health is lack of access to dental care.

DiMarco, who is a pediatric nurse practitioner, said that tooth decay and obesity were more prevalent among the children than other health issues, such as asthma.

The American Dental Association has resources on childhood caries. For information the ADA’s consumer resources site MouthHealthy.org.

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