Open Access Research article

Oral health status and the epidemiologic paradox within latino immigrant groups

Vladimir W Spolsky1*, Marvin Marcus1, Claudia Der-Martirosian1, Ian D Coulter13 and Carl A Maida12

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Public Health and Community Dentistry. School of Dentistry, University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A

2 Division of Oral Biology & Medicine, School of Dentistry, University of California, Los Angeles, U.S.A

3 RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Oral Health 2012, 12:39  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-12-39

Published: 7 September 2012



According to the United States census, there are 28 categories that define “Hispanic/Latinos.” This paper compares differences in oral health status between Mexican immigrants and other Latino immigrant groups.


Derived from a community-based sample (N = 240) in Los Angeles, this cross-sectional study uses an interview covering demographic and behavioral measures, and an intraoral examination using NIDCR epidemiologic criteria. Descriptive, bivariate analysis, and multiple regression analysis were conducted to examine the determinants that are associated with the Oral Health Status Index (OHSI).


Mexican immigrants had a significantly higher OHSI (p < .05) compared to other Latinos. The multilinear regression showed that both age and gender (p < .05), percentage of untreated decayed teeth (p < .001), number of replaced missing teeth (p < .001), and attachment loss (p < .001) were significant.


Compared with the other Latino immigrants in our sample, Mexican immigrants have significantly better oral health status. This confirms the epidemiologic paradox previously found in comparisons of Mexicans with whites and African Americans. In this case of oral health status the paradox also occurs between Mexicans and other Latinos. Therefore, when conducting oral health studies of Latinos, more consideration needs to be given to differences within Latino subgroups, such as their country of origin and their unique ethnic and cultural characteristics.

Oral health status index; Immigrant; Latinos; Epidemiologic paradox