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Factors associated with dental admissions for children aged under 5 years in Western Australia
  1. L Slack-Smith1,2,
  2. L Colvin1,
  3. H Leonard3,
  4. N Kilpatrick4,
  5. C Bower3,5,
  6. L Brearley Messer6
  1. 1
    School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2
    School of Dentistry M512, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3
    Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4
    Oral Health Research, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5
    Birth Defects Registry, Women and Infant Health Service, Subiaco, Western Australia, Australia
  6. 6
    Melbourne Dental School, Faculty of Medicine Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Linda Slack-Smith, School of Dentistry M512, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Hwy, Crawley WA 6009, Australia; Linda.Slack-Smith{at}


Objective: There is limited literature describing dental admissions in preschool children. This paper describes dental hospital admissions and associated factors in children aged under 5 years.

Design: This study uses total population data for Western Australia, which link midwives’ information with birth defects, intellectual disability, hospital admissions and deaths. Children born 1980–1995 (n = 383 665) were followed until 5 years. Intellectual disability data were available for children born between 1983 and 1992. Admission data including length of stay were examined.

Outcome measures: Admissions for each relevant 9th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification (ICD-9) principal diagnosis category and factors associated with having had a dental admission (all categories) and ICD-9 521 (mostly caries) in particular were investigated.

Results: There were 11 523 dental admissions involving 10 493 children. Of all dental admissions, 76% were in ICD-9 category 521, which included admissions for dental caries. After adjusting for confounders, children with intellectual disability (odds ratio 1.92; 95% CI 1.63 to 2.27) and birth defect 1.85 (1.68 to 2.05) were more likely to have had a dental admission. Children living in a region without fluoridated water were also more likely to have had a dental admission 2.16 (1.94 to 2.40). Males were more likely to have had a dental admission 1.16 (1.08 to 1.25), as were children with an indigenous mother 1.17 (1.02 to 1.34). Investigation of ICD-9 521 admissions showed associations similar to those described above except for mother being indigenous, which was associated with reduced likelihood of admission.

Conclusion: Given the burden of dental admissions in young children, these findings highlight the need for improved oral care for children.

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  • Funding: The study was assisted by funds from the Department of Health, Western Australia.

  • Competing interests: None.

  • Ethics approval: This study received approval from the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Western Australia and the Confidentiality of Health Information Committee, WA.