Coping with oral pain: lay management strategies adopted by patients prior to presentation
Objectives: To identify lay measures taken by patients in response to oral pain before seeking professional care and to determine factors leading to demand for professional oral health care.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey of patients aged 16 years and above who presented with oral pain at the oral diagnosis clinics of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital was carried out. Data was collected by means of questionnaires
which sought information on onset and duration of pain, character, aggravating and relieving factors and actions taken by the patients before presentation at the dental clinic.
Results: A total of 215 patients participated. More than half of them described their pain as severe to very severe with 106(49.3%) and 21(9.8%) reporting sleep disruptions and severe agony respectively. Delay in presentation range from over a month in 56(26%) patients to years in
85(39.5%). Responses to pain symptoms included, communication with different persons for advice in 192(89.3%) and application of at least one lay measure in 183(85.1%) patients. Duration and persistence of pain was
associated significantly with the use of more than one measure. There was no association between gender or age and the use of lay measures. Use of measures with possible adverse effects like petrol and acid was reported in 5(2.7%) of the respondents.
Conclusion: Lay strategies in response to oral pain are common in this Nigerian population and appear to be used as an alternative to professional oral health care.
Keywords: Oral pain, lay measures, communication