OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to determine the percent of California’s third grade public school children lacking sealants by child and family factors and to measure social disparities for lacking sealants.
METHODS: The study analyzed data from the California Oral Health Needs Assessment (COHNA) 2004-2005, a complex stratified cluster sample of children (n = 10,450) from 182 randomly selected public elementary schools in California. The dependent variable was absence of sealants in first permanent molars. The independent variables included child race/ethnicity; socio-economic position (SEP) measured as child’s participation in the free or reduced-price lunch program at the individual and school level; acculturation measured as language spoken at home and school level percent of English language learners; and parent functional health literacy measured as correctly following questionnaire instructions. Absolute differences and health disparity indices (i.e. Slope Index of Inequality, Relative Index of Inequality-mean, Absolute Concentration Index) were used to measure absolute and relative disparities.
RESULTS: The percent of children lacking sealants was high in all racial/ethnic groups; no child or school level SEP differences in lacking sealants were seen, but significant differences existed by acculturation (child and school level) and parental functional health literacy.
CONCLUSIONS: NonEnglish language and poor parental functional health literacy are potential barriers that need to be addressed to overcome disparities in sealant utilization.