Disorganized urbanization in Latin America has led to masses of impoverished people to become squatters in the larger urban areas. Using a community development network in the outskirts of Tijuana, in Northern Mexico, this investigation assessed the dental health situation, aiming to establish the underlying behavioral causes of poor oral health in these slums. Using quantitative and qualitative tools, fifty-six mothers (mean age 30.1 +/- 7.2) with their accompanying children (n = 56; mean age 6.1 +/- 3.3; 46.4 percent female) were interviewed and examined. Dental health was poor and characterized by vast unmet treatment needs in adults and children. 22.2 percent of children under three years of age suffered from Early Childhood Caries, strongly linked to inappropriate patterns of bottle use. Dietary patterns for the overall child population included many cariogenic snacks and beverages. A straightforward model to explain behavioral structures incorporates these findings against the background of living in a highly-deprived environment, whereby the allure of more affordable gratifications for self and family is often translated in the form of tokens such as junk food.