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Oral health status and treatment needs among Tanzanians of different age groups

HJ Mosha
AR Senkoro
JRP Masalu
F Kahabuka
G Mandari
L Mabelya
B Kalyanyama


A national oral health survey is a collection of standardized information on oral health from a specific national population or some sample. Basic oral health surveys are used to collect information about the oral health status and treatment needs of a population and subsequently to monitor changes in levels and patterns of disease. In this way it is possible to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of the services being provided and to plan or modify oral health services and training programs as needed (WHO 1997). In Tanzania, the first national oral health survey was conducted in 1982 and the Tanzanian economy remained stagnant at low level for nearly two decades (mid 1970's to mid 1990's). However, as of late, some signs of economic recovery are evident. These might have an impact on the current pattern of oral diseases, particularly dental caries. In this regard, a need to conduct the second national oral health survey (2004) in order to monitor oral health changes arised. The purpose of the study was to determine the oral health status and treatment needs among Tanzanians of different age groups. The findings of the study indicate that Dental caries experience is still very low among Tanzanians (mean DMFT for 12 year olds was 0.3 and for the whole population 1.8). This is in agreement with reported low frequency of sugar consumption where only 4.4% of the studied population reported to have a frequency of sugar consumption of five or more times per day. Majority of the studied population (76%) had proper knowledge on causes of dental caries being frequent consumption of sugary food stuffs and a substantial percentage (67%) agree that dental caries can be prevented by controlling frequency of sugar consumption or by use of fluoridated toothpaste. Calculus of varying severity (48%), low level of bleeding and a few pockets were identified. Although majority of the subjects (68%) responded that they brush more than two times a day, a high level of calculus was found, which raise doubts on effectiveness of tooth brushing methods used. Calculus was noted to be increasing with age and was predominant among 35-44 years olds. Generally there is low level of knowledge on oro-facial lesions coupled with ignorance on the treatment, and belief in witchcraft. Tobacco and its products are still being used by the subjects that could indicate lack of knowledge on the causes of oro-facial lesions. Overjet and openbite were very low and very few subjects needed orthodontic corrections. A very small percentage of the population studied (0.1% – 1.2%) had various TMJ disorders, and all disorders were recorded in 35+ year olds. The studied population demonstrated a proper knowledge on possibility of treating a fractured tooth or jaw. While the majority of the subjects believed in the existence of nylon teeth but the majority had not taken their children for extraction of nylon teeth. Dental fluorosis is common among both sexes and affects more than 30% of the population. All age groups are affected equally. The condition is more prevalent in Kilimanjaro and Shinyanga regions.
There are very few prosthetic appliances among the population signifying that the services are not available, therefore there is low awareness on the availability of the services or purchasing power of the subjects is low despite a prosthetic treatment need of 11%. The finding that 6.5% of the studied population was found to need immediate oral health care implies that there is a need to have oral health care providers to lower levels to take care of such requirements. Nearly half of the studied population (48%) needed referral to a nearby dental clinic. If all those will decide to attend dental clinics an increased of dental personnel will be required to offer oral health services.

Tanzania Dental Journal Vol. 12(1) 2005: 18-27

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eISSN: 0856-0625