Dental caries in young children is commonly untreated and represents a public health problem. Dental caries in children is reported to affect their anthropometric outcomes, but the evidence is conflicting. Some studies found no association, whereas others found that caries was associated with underweight or overweight. The objective was to assess the relationship between dental caries status and height and weight in 6- to 8-year-old Saudi children with high caries prevalence.
This study was a cross-sectional survey in schoolchildren aged 6 to 8 years attending military primary schools in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Caries status was assessed by using the dmft (decayed, missing, filled, teeth [primary teeth]) index. Height and weight were assessed by using z scores of height-for-age (HAZ), weight-for-age (WAZ), and BMI-for-age (BAZ) calculated by World Health Organization standardized procedures. Relationships between caries and HAZ, WAZ, and BAZ were assessed by using regression models.
A total of 417 of the 436 eligible schoolchildren with complete data were included, with a response rate of 95.6%. Their mean dmft index was 5.7 ± 4.2. There was an inverse linear relationship between caries status and children’s HAZ, WAZ, and BAZ and significantly lower anthropometric outcomes for children at each consecutive group with higher levels of caries. The associations remained significant after adjusting for dental, social, and demographic variables.
The inverse linear association between dental caries and all anthropometric outcomes suggests that higher levels of untreated caries are associated with poorer growth in Saudi schoolchildren.