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Development of toolkits for detecting dental caries and caries experience among children using self-report and parent report.



To develop child- and parent-reported toolkits for active caries and caries experience in children and adolescents, ages 8-17.


A sample of 398 child/parent dyads recruited from 12 dental practices in Los Angeles County completed a computer-assisted survey that assessed oral health perceptions. In addition, children received a dental examination that identified the presence or absence of active caries and caries experience. A Multiple Adaptive Regression Splines model was used to identify a subset of survey items associated with active caries and caries experience. The splines and coefficients were refined by generalized cross-validation. Sensitivity and specificity for both dependent variables were evaluated.


Eleven child self-reported items were identified that had sensitivity of 0.82 and specificity of 0.45 relative to active caries. Twelve parent-reported items had a sensitivity of 0.86 and specificity of 0.50. Seven child self-reported items had a sensitivity of 0.86 and specificity of 0.34, and 11 parent-reported items had a sensitivity of 0.86 and specificity of 0.47 for caries experience.


The survey items identified here are useful in distinguishing children with and without active caries and with and without caries experience. This research presents a path towards using children's and their parents' reports about oral health to screen for clinically determined caries and caries exposure. The items identified in this study can be useful when clinical information is unavailable.

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