Faculty and Staff, Periodontology, Research

Beck Leads Report on Findings from First Large Scale Study of Oral Health among Latinos and Hispanics

Dr. James Beck, executive associate dean of the UNC School of Dentistry, is the primary author of an article describing a first-of-its-kind study of oral health among Latinos and Hispanics. Researchers have looked into the Hispanic and Latino demographic in more detail with regard to their national origin. The group discovered that there are specific dental conditions more prevalent in certain Hispanic and Latino origin groups than in others.

The study is this month’s cover story in the American Dental Association’s monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal, The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).

“This is the largest, most diverse study done to date of U.S. Hispanics and Latinos and allowed us to look at subgroups of the Hispanic and Latino study participants to see where similarities and differences lie,” explained Beck. “It provided us a lot of good information about trends within the broad cohort and the more specific demographic groups. Being aware of the oral status within a demographic group can provide a better knowledge base about a patient’s predispositions to certain oral health conditions, which helps dentists provide better care for their patients.”

The study shows decayed-surfaces rates as high as 35.5 percent in study participants with certain backgrounds. The study also looked at the prevalence of root caries (cavities), missing teeth and edentulism (being toothless), and the rate of decayed and filled surfaces. The specific backgrounds examined were Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Central American and South American.

Of note, Central American participants had the highest rate of decayed surfaces at 35.5 percent, closely followed by Mexican participants. Cuban participants showed the highest prevalence of root caries (17 percent) and well as the highest rate of edentulism (6.6 percent). South Americans, Central Americans, Dominicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans all had missing teeth at a rate of more than 60 percent. All six background groups showed a prevalence of decayed and filled surfaces in more than 80 percent of participants.

The study will be sent upon request. The study was co-authored by Dr. Sally Mauriello of UNC, Dr. Jane Atkinson of NIDCR, Dr. Victor Badner of Yeshiva University, Dr. Shirley Beaver of Stanford Brown College, Dr. Karen Becerra of Gary and Mary West Health Institute, Dr. Linda Kaste of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Richard Singer of Nova Southeastern University and Mr. Marston Youngblood, Jr. at the UNC Collaborative Coordinating Center.