Oral health education and practices among community members in central division, Machakos district, Kenya
Mutinda, Agnes Kasusu
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Although oral health problems are not life threatening, they are of public health concern globally due to their high prevalence, morbidity, general discomfort and negative effects on the overall quality of life. The under privileged and rural communities are the most affected in both developed and developing countries. Poor distribution of oral health facilities, equipment and qualified personnel for the services have been implicated as some of the obstacles for people's acquisition of oral health services in Kenya. The aim of this study was to examine Oral health education and practices among community members in Central Division of Machakos District. Data for the study was drawn from a cross sectional survey of community members in Mumbuni and Mutituni locations in April and May 2006. The data was collected using pre-tested self-administered questionnaires and interviews. Cluster sampling was used to select a sample of 391 respondents. The collected data was cleaned, coded, scored, then entered into the computer and analyzed using SPSS Statistical package. Descriptive statistics such as the mean, standard deviation, range and percentages were worked out to describe data. Pearson- Chi -square was used to test statistical associations between variables. The variables considered were utilization of oral health services (visits to the dentist) as the (dependent) variable and oral hygiene practices, availability of oral health services, accessibility to oral health services, alternative treatment of oral diseases and oral health education (awareness) as the (independent) variables. Level of significance was fixed at 0.05 (p=0.05). The results of this study revealed that there was no relationship between distance from area of residence and visits to the dentist p > 0.05 as the respondents were forced to seek health care by urgent health needs. Further, a statistical significant difference was observed in tooth brushing habits among gender and age groups as females observed better oral health care practices than males p<0.05 and the youngest group 15-24 years compared to other groups p< 0.05 respectively. Tooth brushing habits were personal, not significantly associated with visits to the dentist p >0.05. Majority of the respondents (77.5%) brushed teeth using industrial toothbrush / chewing stick and paste which are considered as the correct tooth cleaning devices. Oral health services were provided as 94% of the respondents were treated upon presentation to the dentist. Majority of the respondents (61.9%) had never sought oral health care, which is a major requirement in prevention and early diagnosis of oral diseases. Among those who never visited a dentist, (83.8%) believed they should only visit when they have oral health problems. Urgent `need' (85.3%) or when there were oral health problems was the main reason of visiting a dentist, as was in painful tooth (52%). Most of the respondents presented themselves late, with advanced disease for treatment and tooth extraction (82.9%) was the treatment of choice. Oral health education, which is mainly preventive, was poor among all age groups, as there was no significant difference observed p>0.05. Only (30.4%) of the respondents had received various oral health messages mainly from teachers in schools. This study recommends strengthening of oral health services in the study community by provision of trained manpower to teach oral health education and for early diagnosis of oral diseases. The education should aim to motivate the individuals to self-oral health care. The results of this study would greatly contribute in designing interventions geared towards change of people's attitudes on utilization of oral health services.