Dental caries, dental pain and reported oral problems influence people's oral quality of life and thus their perceived need for dental care. So far there is scant information as to the psychosocial impacts of dental diseases and the perceived treatment need in child populations of sub-Saharan Africa.
Focusing on primary school students in Kilwa, Tanzania, a district deprived of dental services and with low fluoride concentration in drinking water, this study aimed to assess the prevalence of dental pain and oral impacts on daily performances (OIDP), and to describe the distribution of OIDP by socio-demographics, dental caries, dental pain and reported oral problems. The relationship of perceived need estimates with OIDP was also investigated.
A cross-sectional study was conducted in 2008. A total of 1745 students (mean age 13.8 yr, sd = 1.67) completed an extensive personal interview and under-went clinical examination. The impacts on daily performances were assessed using a Kiswahili version of the Child-OIDP instrument and caries experience was recorded using WHO (1997) criteria.
A total of 36.2% (41.3% urban and 31.4% rural, p < 0.001) reported at least one OIDP. The prevalence of dental caries was 17.4%, dental pain 36.4%, oral problems 54.1% and perceived need for dental treatment 46.8% in urban students. Corresponding estimates in rural students were 20.8%, 24.4%, 43.3% and 43.8%. Adjusted OR for reporting oral impacts if having dental pain ranged from 2.5 (95% CI 1.8–3.6) (problem smiling) to 4.7 (95% CI 3.4–6.5) (problem sleeping),- if having oral problems, from 1.9 (95% CI 1.3–2.6) (problem sleeping) to 3.8 (95% CI 2.7–5.2) (problem eating) and if having dental caries from 1.5 (95% CI 1.1–2.0) (problem eating) to 2.2 (95% CI 1.5–2.9) (problem sleeping). Students who perceived need for dental care were less likely to be females (OR = 0.8, 95% CI 0.6–0.9) and more likely to have impacts on eating (OR = 1.9, 95% CI 1.4–2.7) and tooth cleaning (OR = 1.6, 95% CI 1.6–2.5).
Substantial proportions of students suffered from untreated dental caries, oral impacts on daily performances and perceived need for dental care. Dental pain and reported oral problems varied systematically with OIDP across the eight impacts considered. Eating and tooth cleaning problems discriminated between subjects who perceived need for dental treatment and those who did not.