East African Medical Journal

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Dental caries in six, 12 and 15 year old Venda children in South Africa

AS Bajomo, MJ Rudolph, EO Ogunbodede


Background: Oral diseases is still a major problem in most developing countries. Within the Republic of South Africa, there remains areas where few or no studies have been done on the oral health status. The emerging district health system with decentralisation of health services to address past inequity in health care in South Africa also provides compelling case for data collection at regional levels.

Objectives: To assess the prevalence and severity of dental caries of school children; determine the caries patterns of the study population and to provide useful data for the planning of oral health services in this region.

Design: Descriptive analytical study.

Setting: School children in the Donald Fraser Health District, Venda in the Northern province, Republic of South Africa.

Subjects/Methods: A total of 519 school children in the age groups 6, 12 and 15 years were examined by a calibrated examiner for dental caries using WHO diagnostic criteria. Both the schools, which were divided into rural and peri-urban locations and the children that participated were randomly selected.

Results: A mean dmft(sd) of 2.68(3.29) in six year olds and a mean DMFT (sd) scores of 0.61(1.50) and 1.26 (2.18) were recorded in the 12 and 15 year olds respectively. In the six year olds the upper anterior teeth showed highest susceptibility to caries, clearly indicating that black children suffer from early infant caries. At ages of 12 and 15 the mandibular molars were the teeth most affected. The decayed component constituted the main part of the dmft and DMFT scores. Ninety-nine percent of these lesions were untreated and the restorative care was almost nil.

Conclusion: An important finding was the doubling of the mean DMFT from the 12-yearolds to 15-year olds and the caries levels for all age groups was higher than the provincial average. The treatment required were mostly extractions and simple fillings, the majority of which could be managed by dental auxillaries using the Atraumatic Restorative Treatment Technique. This study indicates that preventive oral health measures should be implemented on the younger age groups in order to control dental caries.

East African Medical Journal Vol. 81 No. 5 May 2004: 236-243
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