Family functioning and dental caries among preschool children

Sarah Almutairi*, Sasha Scambler, Eduardo Bernabé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To investigate the relationship of family functioning with dental caries among 3–4-year-olds and the role of family functioning in explaining the relationship of family socioeconomic status (SES) with childhood dental caries. Methods: Data from 761 parent–child dyads who took part in the East London Oral Health Inequalities study were analyzed. Family functioning was assessed using the 60-item family assessment device that yielded scores on general functioning and six domains (roles, communication, problem-solving, affective involvement, affective responsiveness, and behavior control). Children were clinically examined at home for dental caries. The association of family functioning and family SES (education and socioeconomic classification) with dental caries (dmft and dt scores) was tested using negative binominal regression while adjusting for child and parental demographic factors. Results: Children from families with unhealthy general functioning had 1.49 (95% CI: 1.01–2.20) and 1.84 (95% CI: 1.20–2.82) times greater dmft and dt, respectively, than those from families with healthy functioning after adjustment for confounders. The estimates for the associations of parental education and socioeconomic classification with dmft and dt were attenuated by around 12%–18% after adjusting for family functioning. Of the six family functioning domains assessed, only unhealthy behavior control in the family was associated with greater numbers of decayed teeth after adjustments. Conclusions: This study showed that unhealthy family functioning was associated with dental caries among young children. Family functioning partly explained the relationship between family SES and childhood dental caries.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Public Health Dentistry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • children
  • dental caries
  • family
  • socioeconomic factors


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