According to a study published in the April issue of Community Dentistry & Oral Epidemiology, contrary to conventional wisdom, overweight children have fewer cavities and healthier teeth than their normal-weight peers.

Researchers at the Eastman Dental Center, part of the University of Rochester Medical Center, conducted a secondary analysis of 18,000 children who participated in two separate National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES III and NHANES 99-02).

The study found no differences in rates of caries among children ages 2 to 5 in all weight ranges. However, children ages 6 to 18 who were considered overweight and at risk for becoming overweight showed a decreased risk of caries compared to their normal-weight peers.

"We expected to find more oral disease in overweight children of all ages, given the similar causal factors that are generally associated with obesity and caries," said Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, DDS, MPH, the lead author of the study. "Our findings raise more questions than answers. For example, are overweight children eating foods higher in fat rather than cavity-causing sugars? Are their diets similar to normal-weight peers but lead more sedentary lifestyles? Research to analyze both diet and lifestyle is needed to better understand the results."