Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Dietary Habits of the Primary to Secondary School Population and Implications for Oral Health

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Dietary Habits of the Primary to Secondary School Population and Implications for Oral Health

Article excerpt

Surveys have shown increases in dental caries in young persons in Kuwait. Intake of sugar and carbohydrates has increased, as has the incidence of obesity. The objective of this study was to identify dietary practices and the potential for dental disease in primary, intermediate, and secondary school students in a health region. A random sample of 600 students aged 8, 13, and 17 yrs in 12 schools (6 boys' schools and 6 girls' schools) received a questionnaire. Responses were analyzed by age group, gender, and dietary practices at home and in school. The dietary composition of meals tended to be similar at all ages and in both genders. A total of 97% of 8-yr-old, 96% of 13-yr-old, and 92% of 17-yr-old students reported snacking at school. Sugar intake from identified snacks alone was calculated as 193.8 g/day or the estimated equivalent of 746 calories, and daily fat intake was 70.17 g. A total of 88.6% of respondents (56.6% of all children) used fluoridated toothpaste; 44.4% of all children (22.6% of 8-yr-old, 14.1% of 13-yr-old, and 7.7% of 17-yr-old students) reported brushing their teeth three times per day. Use of school snacks increased with age, while use of a toothbrush decreased. Fundamental oral hygiene procedures such as brushing and use of fluoridated toothpaste appear to have been implemented. Health workers need to provide new and pertinent oral health messages, nutrition counseling, attention to diet, and reinforcement with parents, food preparers, health facilities, and intermediate and secondary schools. J Allied Health 2006; 35:75-80.

KUWAIT IS A STATE in the Middle East with a population of 2,000,000, of which 65% are younger than 25 yrs of age. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.1 Epidemiologic studies in the early and late 1980s illustrated an increase in the prevalence of dental caries in the childhood population.2,3 Vigild et al.4 studied the prevalence of dental caries and fluorosis in 4-, 6-, 12- and 15-yr-old children. The possibility existed that Kuwait would not meet the World Health Organization oral health goal for the year 2000 of three or fewer decayed, missing, or filled permanent teeth at age 12 yrs. The cessation of water fluoridation in 1980 was considered a possible contributor to the increase. In addition, the composition of the diet changed following the Gulf War, with the introduction of increased processed foods, fast food outlets, and carbonated drinks.5

The Ministry of Health in 1992(6) introduced a nationwide program to provide preventive services and oral health care to children in primary school. This group previously did not have access to such services under the government health program. Schoolchildren received health education classes in school as part of the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education. Because it was unlikely that a systemic fluoride program would he introduced into Kuwait within the immediate future, other approaches to provide a fluoride protective benefit, such as use of fluoridated toothpaste, fluoride rinses, fluoride lozenges, and sealants, were included. In certain schools, organized tooth brushing was implemented.

Dental caries is a sugar-related chronic infectious disease.7 Sugar, or rather sucrose, has long been associated with dental caries. HoIt8 identified the increase in carious teeth in young children with an increase in sugar intake, and Grindefjord et all.9 showed that increased frequency of soft drink consumption more than twice per day and intake of sweets more than once per week both increased caries levels. Whereas the degree of influence of sugar on the production of caries may be disputed, it is evident that even though the presence of fluoride reduces the risk of dental caries dramatically, it does not eliminate the influence of sugar entirely.

The increase in sugar intake in the presence of fluoride has been noted hy Sheiham10 to diminish the resistance to caries. …

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