Dental caries, though common, presents with considerable variation in occurrence between countries, regions within countries, areas within regions, and among social and ethnic groups. The aim of this study was to describe the oral health status and practices of primary school children in the western region of Cameroon.
This was a comparative descriptive cross sectional study took place in April to October 2018 in primary schools located in three localities (Urban, semi urban and rural) of the West region of Cameroon using a multistage random (cluster) sampling technique.
There were a predominance of female pupils 265(54.9 %) than males 218 (45.1 %) and 411 (85.1 %) of the pupils had toothbrushes with the majority from urban areas 142 (94.7%). The frequency of brushing was higher in urban than the semi-urban and rural areas and 212 (50.5) of them brushed teeth once a day and nearly half 184 (43.8) twice daily. More than half 238 (56.7) of the children brush before breakfast wake up less than half brush 176 (42%) brush after supper. Two third 280(66.8%) of the children brush their teeth with toothbrush and without toothpaste 54(39.4%) was higher in rural areas. Wood ash 7 (5.1%), soap 4(2.9%) and chewing sticks 3(2, 2%) were most frequently used for brushing in rural areas. The majority 395 (82 %) of the children had plaque, 73(15.1 %) presented with dental mal positions, 341 (70.6 %) with bleeding gums and 223 (46.2 %) had calculus which was predominant in lower incisors. The prevalence of dental caries in the entire population was 28.1%.The majority of pupils 346 (71.6 %) were caries free and 01 (0.2 %) had a missing tooth due to decay. None of the children presented with filled teeth. The mean DMFT was higher in the rural (0.39) as compared to the semi urban (0.18) and the urban (0.09) respectively. The mean DMFT index of the entire population was 0.28 while 135(27.9%) of the pupils presented with enamel caries which was predominant in the first permanent molar, 19 (47.2%) presented with deep caries mostly in the second deciduous molars and 8 (22.5%) presented with enamel caries on the second deciduous molars. Dental trauma 12 (2.5%) was mostly found in the upper central incisors. More than a third 61(36.1%) of the pupils who presented with gingivitis were from rural areas,43(25,4%) from semi urban, and 40(26.7%) from urban areas. Almost all the children who lived in semi-urban 157(92.9%) and in urban areas 150 (78.7%) consumed cariogenic diets. A third of the children who ate in-between meals lived in urban areas149 (34.2%) while 123 (72.8%) of the children in semi-urban areas were conscious of their oral hygiene, and 61 (37.2%) of the children’s food are controlled by the parents. Only 37 (7.7 %) of the children have done have ever been to a dentist.
The prevalence of dental caries, periodontal diseases and other orofacial lesions in the western region of Cameroon was low. Dental caries was found to be higher in rural and urban areas.
Collaboration between the ministries of health and basic education is necessary as a measure to institute oral health education in primary schools. This will go a long way to reduce inequalities in oral health by improving in the oral practices.
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