Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Oral Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Childhood caries in the state of Kentucky, USA: a cross-sectional study

Elizabeth A Kandel1, Jenna M Richards1 and Catherine J Binkley2*

Author affiliations

1 School of Dentistry Pre-Doctoral Program, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA

2 Department of Surgical & Hospital Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Oral Health 2012, 12:38  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-12-38

Published: 5 September 2012



Untreated dental caries afflicts almost one third of school-aged children in the United States and many of them are from disadvantaged families. This cross-sectional study was undertaken to investigate the prevalence of untreated caries in north central Kentucky, USA and to examine the relationships between the available demographic variables and untreated childhood caries as reported on the forms from the Smile Kentucky! program.


During the fall of 2008, caries status was assessed during the visual oral screening examination component of “SmileKentucky!”– a model of the American Dental Association’s Give Kids A Smile program. Parents had completed brief surveys concerning 3,488 elementary school children aged 5 to 13 years who participated in the program. A secondary analysis was conducted using univariate, bivariate and multivariate statistical methods.


Untreated caries was reported in 33% of children. Bivariate and logistic regression analyses found that the most significant risk factors for having untreated caries were living in the metropolitan Louisville, Kentucky area, not having had a dental visit in the previous 3 years and not having any form of dental insurance.


Untreated caries in elementary school children is prevalent in north-central Kentucky despite efforts to improve access to care. The results suggest that additional family and community preventive initiatives are needed to reduce the development of childhood caries in this area of the United States.