Dental caries is a prominent childhood ailment and public health concern that can be prevented with comprehensive oral hygiene and routine check-ups and preventive care. The disease is worse where there are unmet dental needs, such as a lack of education on dental hygiene and low availability of dental professionals within a general area.
Ecological Study On Needs and Cost Of Treatment For Dental Caries In Schoolchildren Aged 6, 12, And 15 Years: Data From A National Survey In Mexico by Carlo E. Medina-Solis, DDS, MSc, Leticia Avila-Burgos, et al. compiles the most recent data on dental caries from children in Mexico and proposes ideas to decrease its prevalence among these children.
Prevalence of Caries In Mexican Schoolchildren
Caries are essentially lesions that grow large enough to cause a large number of extractions on primary and permanent sets of teeth in the children. In Mexico, anywhere from 70% to 85% of schoolchildren aged twelve have caries.
Treating such a widespread disease takes up a large amount of the government’s money set aside for healthcare. Because of this, there is usually a lack of funds and general dental supplies. Much of a person’s dental care has to be paid out-of-pocket. This is unattainable by a majority of the population in a low-income country.
The main detriments to dental treatment in Mexico are:
- lack of access; a limited supply of services, personnel, and tools
- economic, geographic, and social barriers and stigma
- poor dental education
- lack of investment by the healthcare system
Mexican schoolchildren experience more pain, infection, and other health-related issues due to their teeth than in developed countries. Their diet becomes rigid as they eat only what they can, and malnutrition occurs often.
Researchers took into consideration that local views about doctors and dentists do not always reflect that of first world countries and the health community in general. A community or group within the community, for example, may have religious reasons to distrust doctors, while others have the belief that doctors and dentists are running tests and pulling teeth for the money and not the good of the patient.
A cross-sectional ecological study covered thirty-two Mexican states and addressed their children’s higher chances of caries, restorative care, and loss of teeth. This information allows researchers to determine what care is needed where it is needed and gives them an estimate of the cost to address the problem.
Data was taken from each state and compared to the national average to determine statewide dental needs. Children from public and private schools were both included in the study, as were all income groups, races, and tribal associations.
All three age groups needed more access to dental providers, and, for various reasons, children with their primary teeth had more care than children with permanent teeth. Eighty percent of this population is in dire need of dental services, which is a percentage that remains static throughout all of Latin America, with the exclusion of certain countries such as Cuba.
It takes almost $300 billion dollars annually to take care of dental disease worldwide, and access is still limited to millions of people. That’s still under five percent of the world’s total healthcare expenditure. In Mexico, the dental cost is a huge problem that must be addressed. A cost-effective prevention program must be implemented to be viable.
Pit and fissure sealants must be used along with fluoride toothpaste, which means that dental care must be overhauled and procedures put in place so that all dentists follow the same guidelines using the same materials.
At the same time, the only way to truly decrease the direness of dental needs is to formulate an education plan in hygiene for the kids and also for their parents. Then this education plan must continue and grow upon itself in complexity year after year. It’s essential for these health policies to be put in place to prevent the occurrence of caries on the whole, and not just concern itself with fixing already damaged teeth.
Once all of these parameters have been set into place, and children routinely get check-ups and cleanings will the prevalence of caries reduce, and Mexico can take a step up in the developing country scale.