Date of Award


Degree Name



Public Health


Delfina Dominguez



Background and significance: Dental caries is the most common infectious disease in childhood, causing negative long and short term effects in a child’s life. Children living in poverty are twice as likely to be affected by dental caries compared to those living above the poverty level. Of this poverty group, Mexican-American children are the most affected. In the US-Mexico border communities 83% of the population is Hispanic with the majority of them being of Mexican descent, and 30% of those live in poverty. The United States Mexico border is also characterized by a rapid population growth, high unemployment rates, and less access to healthcare than the general U.S. population. Methods: This pilot research project explored the prevalence of dental caries in a sample of 121 Mexican-American children and adolescents, 5 through 17 years of age attending the Rawlings Dental Pediatric Clinic in El Paso, TX. A survey was developed and applied to parents/legal guardians of children/adolescents to identify key risks factors that may play a role in the development of dental caries. The survey addressed sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics such as age, gender, tooth brushing frequency and daily sugar intake. The survey was based on the Dental Risk Assessment Questionnaire from the Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Caries Risk Assessment Form from the American Dental Association. Results: (1) There was a positive correlation of daily sugary food/drinks intake and prevalence of dental caries; (2) there was a negative correlation of daily fruits and vegetables consumption and prevalence of dental caries; (3) there is a negative correlation between daily frequency of tooth brushing and dental caries prevalence; and finally, (4) there was no association between water source consumption and dental caries prevalence. Conclusion/Recommendations: The study findings have implications for oral health promotion and intervention design in low income settings and for minority populations. Based on the results from this study we believe Mexican-American children and adolescents from the sampled population have a high prevalence of dental caries due to dietary factors such as increased sugar intake and low intake of fruits and vegetables. It was expected that participants who reported drinking water from the public water system had a lower prevalence of dental caries compared to the other sources. However, no association was detected. Further studies should address more closely the role of fluoride water consumption and prevalence of dental caries. The study also suggests the need for a comprehensive approach in addressing the role of dietary factors in creating oral health disparities among minorities. A multidisciplinary team (pediatricians, dentists, dietitians, nurses) should be utilized to provide dietary advice and education to the parents/caretakers of children in order to moderate sugar intake, and provide appropriate and cultural sensitive dietary guidelines to prevent dental caries.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

50 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Andrea Aguila