Mahurin Honors College Capstone Experience/Thesis Projects


Allied Health

Document Type



Background: Dental caries is the single most common chronic childhood disease in Kentucky affecting 20% of preschoolers, 50% of second graders, and 75% of 15 year olds. Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, occurs when bacteria from salivary glands produce an acid to breakdown food. If this acid is not cleaned off the teeth, it can destroy the tooth enamel. Dental problems can be linked to the inability to pay for dental care (i.e. insurance), limited access to dental providers, and parental inability to take their children to dentists. To help address the issue with tooth decay seen among children, mobile dental clinics are tied with school-based dental programs to deliver oral healthcare to the community.

Methods: With the use of data from the Institute for Rural Health (IRH) at Western Kentucky University (2006- 2011), the study examines the data from children (6 to 15 years of age) who sought care through the mobile dental unit (MDU). The study focused on the possible relationship of socioeconomic status (i.e. average income level in household income, median income) and access (number of dental providers in a service area) with the dental caries status of children. This study analyzes data from IRH MDU, the 2010 U.S. Census, and the Kentucky Dental Association. The number of caries identified between the years of 2006 to 2011 were calculated to be defined as the average number of caries seen per visit and it was compared to the median income per county, the education level per county, and provider density per county.

Results & Conclusion: It was found that the median income might have a complex relationship with the average number of caries seen per visit. The provider density and education level may have an indirect relationship with the average number of caries seen per visit. The availability and access to dental providers may be a key determinant in the average number of caries seen per visit in children.

Advisor(s) or Committee Chair

Dr. Gregory Ellis-Griffith


Dental Public Health and Education | Dentistry | Pediatric Dentistry and Pedodontics