This study explored the potential association between childhood asthma and caries using oral examination and health interview data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1988-1994 (NHANES III). We fitted GEE Poisson regression models with adjustment for parents' income, gender, race, exposure to potentially xerostomic drugs, and the presence of pit and fissure sealants. There was no association between the use of drugs commonly used by asthmatics (antihistamines, corticosteroids, and antiasthmatic inhalers) and df/DMF scores. Asthmatic children 4-10 years of age at all severity levels had similar dfs scores to the controls, however, severely asthmatic children 4-10 years of age had significantly lower DMFS (p = 0.010) and DMFT (0.049) scores than controls. Similarly, severely asthmatic children 11-16 years of age had significantly lower DMFT scores than controls (p = 0.024) and DMFS scores approaching statistical significance (p = 0.053). While our analysis adjusted for covariates, potential confounders such as fluoride intake from water, diet, use of topical fluorides, and dose of antiasthmatic medication could not be addressed. Our results indicate that any association between asthma and dental caries may occur primarily in younger children with no evidence of an association between asthma and dental caries as children mature.
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