Objectives: To examine the disparities in oral health outcomes and dental service utilization among children aged 1-4 years who are eligible for the Women, Infants, and Children Program in the U.S.
Methods: We used the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). This study included 2,693 WIC eligible children aged 1-4 years with household income <=185% federal poverty line. Outcome variables included cavities, toothaches, dental cleaning, fluoride treatment and dental visit. Prevalence rates of these outcomes were compared between WIC participants and eligible non-participants. Chi-square and logistic regressions were applied to examine the significance of association between WIC participation, socio-demographics, and oral health outcomes.
Results: Among the eligible children, 54.0% participated in WIC. Participants had a higher proportion of non-Hispanic whites, lower-educated caregivers, and higher proportions of health insurance coverage (P<0.05). After controlling socio-demographics, WIC participants in non-Hispanic whites had higher risk of toothaches and cavities than eligible non-participants (OR: 2.91, 95% CI: 1.25-6.75; OR: 2.77, 95% CI: 0.94-8.13 respectively). However, Hispanic WIC participants had lower risk of toothaches than non-participating counterparts (OR= 0.27, 95% CI: 0.05-1.46). Non-Hispanic black participants were more likely to have Fluoride treatment (OR=3.15, 95% CI: 1.15-8.61). Among boys, participants were more likely to have cavities (OR=2.27, 95% CI: 1.03-5.02) and significantly less likely to have dental visits (OR=0.33, 95% CI: 0.12-0.92) than eligible non-participants.
Conclusions: Significant disparities were observed across WIC participations in certain socio-demographic groups of eligible children. Further exploration is warranted to improve oral health among WIC participants.