Risk factors associated with early childhood caries: an epidemiological survey in Mariental, Namibia
Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is a public health problem both in developing and developed countries. Its widespread prevalence among children makes it ideal for assessing the risk factors and identifying specific strategies that could be implemented to prevent the disease. The aim of the present study was to determine the risk factors associated with early childhood caries among 5 – 48 month children in Mariental, Namibia. The objectives were to determine (i) the prevalence and severity of early childhood caries in 5 – 48 months old children (ii) the risk of early childhood caries associated with feeding practices, social and cultural behaviour, sugar consumption, dental health awareness, fluoride and risk behaviour. The study design used was cross-sectional and descriptive. A convenience sample was used as mothers visited the post-natal clinic or the hospital for treatment of other ailments or problems. The sample size comprised 230 mothers and their children and only mothers and their biological children in the age range 5- 48 months were included in the survey. Data was collected by using an open- and closed-ended questionnaire that included questions regarding the child‘s dietary and nutritional habits, oral hygiene habits, socio-economic status and beliefs. Mothers and their biological children were examined for presence or absence of dental caries and the findings were recorded on a modified WHO data sheet. The mean age of the children was 24 months, the mean deft 1.5 and the Significant Caries Index (SiC) was 4.5. There was an increase in caries prevalence (add caries prevalence) with increasing age both among girls and boys. The mean DMFT of the mothers was 7.1, their SiC was 17.11 and more than three quarters had at least one tooth missing which was extracted due to caries and just under a quarter had one or more decayed teeth. Despite the fact that most of the mothers reported knowing the importance of good oral hygiene, brush their own teeth and cleaning their children‘s mouth both mothers and their children had high DMFT or deft indices. This is due to a multiplicity of factors – the majority of the mothers were both uneducated and unemployed and have difficulty in making or taking appropriate choices conducive to healthy lifestyles in turn affecting their behaviours and oral hygiene practices.