That’s according to nurse researchers from the Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron.
Researchers found that as body mass index increased with age, so do the number of cavities.
These findings were published in the online Journal of Pediatric Health Care article, Childhood obesity and dental caries in homeless children.
The study examined the physicals of 157 children, from 2 to 17 years old, at an urban homeless shelter.
Most were from single-parent families headed by women with one or two children.
Obesity was calculated based on height and weight or BMI. Cavity counts included missing, filled or injured teeth. The data was originally collected for Marguerite DiMarco's doctoral dissertation at Case Western Reserve nursing school.
While studies in Brazil, New Zealand, Sweden and Mexico have shown a relationship between obesity, dental health and poverty, few US studies have examined how the three factors are linked.
A paediatric nurse practitioner, Marguerite said dental caries and obesity outpaced such health issues as asthma among the children studied.
The findings support reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that obesity and poor oral health have doubled since 1980, raising the risk of diabetes and other health problems, as well as issues with self-esteem.
Poverty contributes to poor dental health by limiting access to nutritious food, refrigerators to preserve food and even running water in some homes, said Marguerite, who has seen dental caries as the predominant infectious disease in rural and urban children.
‘Many people do not realise that dental caries is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from the primary caregiver and siblings to other children,’ she added.
To help reduce the spread of dental infection, she reminds parents that gum disease and other oral infections can be spread by licking a child's spoon or baby bottle, or by sharing toothbrushes.
Another problem for children of poverty is access to dental care, where families lack the financial means and transportation to make and keep an appointment.