Dental caries and previous hospitalisations among preschool children: findings from a population-based study in New Zealand.
Aung YM., Tin Tin S., Jelleyman T., Ameratunga S.
BACKGROUND: Early childhood caries (ECC) is a significant public health problem, and may be associated with other health conditions. AIM: To investigate whether an association exists between ECC and previous hospitalisations due to avoidable medical conditions, including injury-related admissions among preschool children. METHODS: This population-based retrospective study involves all five-year old children who resided in one of the two contiguous regions in northern New Zealand (Northland and Auckland) and received school entry dental examinations between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2015. Eligible children were identified from the regional dental datasets (Titanium® software), and their ECC status was determined by using decayed missing filled teeth (dmft) scores. Information on hospitalisations for avoidable medical conditions, which occurred during the first six years of life, was obtained through linkage to hospital discharge data. Logistic regression analysis was performed to assess the associations between ECC and previous hospitalisations. RESULTS: 11,173 of the 27,333 eligible children (40.9%) had ECC (dmft ≥1). Children from non-European ethnic origins (Māori, Pacific and Asian groups) and those from the Northland, areas without community water fluoridation or deprived neighbourhoods, were more likely to have ECC. ECC was significantly associated with injury-related admissions (adjusted odds ratio: 1.17; 95% CI: 1.07, 1.27), but not with admissions for other medical and respiratory conditions. CONCLUSION: ECC was highly prevalent in New Zealand children, and associated with injury-related hospital admissions. The findings underscore more efforts to tackle ECC and associated health conditions.