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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB: Average Area Under the Curve: An Alternative Method for Quantifying the Dental Caries Experience in Longitudinal Studies

Field‐traditional decayed, missing, filled surfaces (dmfs) increments require complete follow‐up, only using initial and final visits. Repeated dmfs scores complicate sophisticated statistical models, limiting their utility. Elsewhere, area under the curve (AUC) uses all repeated measures to summarize data. This study applied AUC methodology to caries data, creating average AUCs for dmfs trajectories (dmfsaAUC) and comparing increments and dmfsaAUC values. The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health researchers on the study include Drs. Kelsey Jordan, alumna, and Dr. Gerald McGwin, professor, both from the department of epidemiology, and Dr. Leann Long, assistant professor, from the department of biostatistics.

Longitudinal data were obtained from high‐caries risk (i.e. poor, rural, African American community in Perry County, Alabama) infants, 8 to 18 months at baseline. Baseline and five annual visual oral examinations provided dmfs scores. Differences in baseline and final dmfs scores constituted increments. The trapezoidal rule was applied to dmfs trajectories to calculate AUC values which were adjusted for varying follow‐up times, producing dmfsaAUC values. Participants sharing incremental or dmfsaAUC values had their trajectories and second caries measurements compared. Within‐participant increment and dmfsaAUC differences were evaluated. Comparative analyses required complete follow‐up.

When desired, dmfsaAUC can replace increments as a more data‐inclusive summary of longitudinal caries burden, incorporating intermediate visits, incomplete follow‐up and time.

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