Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Journal of Dental Hygiene








Purpose: Dental caries is prevalent among low-income and minority children despite oral health promotion programs. The purpose of this study was to examine disparities associated with caregiver-reported cavities and toothaches among children in the United States aged 2-4 years by their eligibility for and participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

Methods: A secondary data analysis was performed using the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) data on children aged 2-4 years (n=7,719) with complete WIC participation information. Three groups were formed based on WIC eligibility and participation status: WIC participants, income-eligible non-participants, and higher-income non-participants. Caregiver-reported cavities and toothaches were compared by WIC eligibility and participation using chi-square tests and multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Results: Among all children in the data set, 2,069 were WIC eligible, 49.8% of whom participated in WIC. Participants in WIC had higher reported cavities and toothaches (10.0% and 5.2%) than income-eligible, or higher-income non-WIC participating children (8.9% and 3.2%; 4.4% and 0.1%, respectively; p < 0.001). However, non-Hispanic, white WIC participants, had a higher proportion of reported cavities (14.0%) and toothaches (8.2%) than income-eligible nonparticipants (6.7% and 1.9%, respectively; p < 0.05). While non-Hispanic, black WIC participating children, had nearly 3.6 times more reported cavities than income-eligible nonparticipants (9.0% vs. 2.5%, p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Caregiver-reported cavities and toothaches varied by sociodemographic characteristics within WIC participation and eligibility groups. These findings suggest that more research is warranted to explore factors that are contributing to oral health disparities associated with WIC eligibility and participation.


Copyright © 2022 The American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

Included with the kind written permission of the publisher.

Original Publication Citation

Claiborne, D. M., Chen, C., & Zhang, Q. (2022). Disparities in caregiver-reported dental cavities and toothaches among children in the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 96(1), 43-54.


0000-0001-6324-9856 (Claiborne)