Overweight children at lower risk for caries

Overweight children might be at an elevated risk for many diseases, but oral disease isn't one of them. According to a new study in this month's issue of Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology, overweight children or those at risk of becoming overweight may have a decreased risk of caries compared to children of normal weight.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center did an analysis of the nearly 18,000 children who participated in two separate National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys (NHANES III and NHANES 1999-02).

Some of their key findings:

  • In both surveys there was no difference in caries experience among normal weight, overweight, and at risk for being overweight, children between the ages of 2-5.
  • Data from NHANES III revealed that children between the ages of 6-18 who were overweight, or at risk for being overweight, were less likely to get caries than children of normal weight.
  • However, in NHANES 1999-02, overweight, at risk for being overweight, and normal weight children between ages 6-18 showed no difference in caries experience.

Children at the 95th or higher percentile for weight in their age and sex were considered overweight; those in the 85th or higher percentile were considered at risk.

"We expected to find more oral disease in overweight children of all ages, given the similar causal factors that are generally associated with obesity and caries,"said Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, D.D.S., M.P.H., the lead author, in a University of Rochester press release. "Our findings raise more questions than answers. For example, are overweight children eating foods higher in fat rather than cavity-causing sugars? Are their diets similar to normal weight peers but lead more sedentary lifestyles? Research to analyze both diet and lifestyle is needed to better understand the results."

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