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Study Shows Strong Link Between Obesity and Dental Health in Homeless Children

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A recent study from the nurse researchers from the Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron shows that there is a strong link between obesity and dental health in homeless children. 

Marguerite DiMarco, associate professor at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, led the study. Researchers Sheau-Huey Chiu, assistant professor, and graduate assistant Jessica L. Prokp, from the University of Akron's College of Nursing, also contributed to the study.

To complete this study, researchers examined the physicals of 157 children, from 2 to 17 years old, at an urban homeless shelter. Researchers found that as body mass index (BMI) increased with age, so do the number of cavities. Obesity was calculated based on height and weight or BMI. Cavity counts included missing, filled, or injured teeth.

DiMarco, a pediatric nurse practitioner, said dental caries and obesity outpaced health issues such as asthma among the children studied. She has seen dental caries as the predominant infectious disease in rural and urban children.

Several factors contribute poor dental health in homeless children, including limiting access to nutritious food, refrigerators to preserve food, and even running water in some homes, said DiMarco.

Children of poverty also face the problem of access to dental care, where in many cases families cannot afford to visit clinicians or even find transportation to bring children to appointments.

DiMarco reminds parents that gum disease and other oral infections can be spread by licking a child's spoon or baby bottle, or by sharing toothbrushes.

To view more information about the study, click here.

To view more information about National Homeless Awareness Month (this November), click here.

Monica Barudin is an Assistant Editor for Dental Product Shopper and Hygiene Product Shopper.

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