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Prevalence and awareness of early childhood caries among attendees of a reproductive and child health clinic at Mnazi Mmoja dispensary, Dar es Salaam

H Mziray
FK Kahabuka


The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence, and awareness of early childhood caries (ECC) among attendees of a Reproductive and Child Health clinic at Mnazi Mmoja dispensary in Dar es Salaam. The parents or guardians were aged 16-55 years old, while the children were aged 6-36 months. Caries was scored according to WHO criteria (1997). A structured questionnaire, translated in Kiswahili was used to inquire on awareness in etiology and prevention of early childhood caries. Caries prevalence was 26.4% among the children examined, 22% of the children had caries on maxillary central incisors and 8% had caries on maxillary lateral incisors. None of the children had caries on the upper molars. About 57% of the caries was on maxillary central incisors, and only 4% on mandibular central incisors. The participants indicated that the causes of ECC are; frequent consumption of sugary foods (59%), improper tooth brushing (10%) and frequent use of medicinal syrups (8%). Regarding prevention, 31% of the participants knew that restricting use of sucrose foods prevents early childhood caries, while none of the mothers knew that not practicing breastfeeding at will and restriction of frequent bottle feeding prevents ECC. Parents who attained secondary school education were more aware of ECC than those who attained primary school education only. From the results of this study it is concluded that the prevalence of ECC in this study group is high and within the range previously reported, ECC was not related to breast feeding at will. Furthermore, we conclude that a high percentage of parents studied knew what ECC is, a substantial proportion knew its cause but few knew its prevention.

Tanzania Dental Journal Vol. 12(2) 2006: 35-41