B.O. Popoola, O.O. Denloye and O.I. Iyun

Department of Child Oral Health, University College Hospital Ibadan, Nigeria.


Background: Dental caries is a lifetime disease and its sequelae have been found to constitute health problems of immense proportion in children. Environmental factors such as culture, socioeconomic status, lifestyle and dietary pattern can have a great impact on caries resistance or caries-development in a child.

Objective: The present study was conducted to evaluate the relationship between dental caries and socioeconomic status of children attending paediatric dental clinic in UCH Ibadan.

Methods: Socio-demographic data for each child that attended paediatric dental clinic, UCH Ibadan within a period of one year was obtained and recorded as they presented in the dental clinic, followed by oral examination for each of them in the dental clinic to detect decayed, missing and filled deciduous and permanent teeth (dmft and DMFT respectively).

Results: The mean dmft and DMFT score for the 209 children seen within period of study were 1.58 + 2.4 and 0.63+1.3 respectively. Highest caries prevalence (46.9%) was found within the high social class while the caries prevalence in middle and low social class were 40.5% and 12.6% respectively. The highest dmft/DMFT of >7 was recorded in two children belonging to high social class. The difference in dmft in the three social classes was statistically significant (x 2 = 51.86,p= 0.008) but for DMFT, it was not statistically significant (x2 = 6.92, p = 0.991).

Conclusion: Caries experience was directly related to socio-economic status of the parents of the studied children with highest caries prevalence in high and middle socioeconomic classes.

Keywords: Dental Caries and Socioeconomic status.


Dr. Bamidele O. Popoola
Department of Child Oral Health,
University College Hospital,
Ibadan, Nigeria.


Dental caries is the most prevalent oral disease and it remains the single most common disease of childhood that is not amenable to short-term pharmacological management1. More than eighty percent of the paediatric population is affected by dental caries by age seventeen1. It’s very high morbidity potential has brought this disease into the main focus of the dental health profession. There is practically no geographic area in the world whose inhabitants do not exhibit some evidence of dental caries. It affects both gender, all races, all socioeconomic status and all age groups2. It does not only cause pain and discomfort, but also in addition, places a financial burden on parents of affected children.

According to WHO’s Global Data for the year 2000 on decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT Index), the level of dental caries in Africa is low relative to the findings in the Americans3. In the 60’s, the prevalence of dental caries in developed countries was found to be generally higher than that in the developing countries with a mean DMFT range of 4.5 – 6.5 in 12 year old in developed countries and 0.1 – 1.1 in the same age group in developing countries4,5 Meanwhile, Petersen3 in his review of various studies on dental caries noticed two distinct trends in the prevalence of the disease. First is the decline in the prevalence of dental caries in developed countries over the past 30 years and second is the increase in the prevalence of the disease in some developing countries. A decrease in mean DMFT as low as 2.6 in some developed countries and an increase in mean DMFT up to 1.7 in some developing countries has been reported3 In some countries in Africa, the prevalence of caries in young children is increasing. In these countries, dental caries is associated with an increase in sugar consumption from food, beverages and sweets, while it remains low in countries where poor economy restricts refined sugar consumption6. Incidence of caries has been on the increase in some rapidly industrializing African communities particularly in the urban communities7.

In Nigeria, studies have shown that dental caries prevalence is on the increase although low compared with findings in developed countries. A mean DMFT of between 1.9 and 2.7 had been reported8-11. Adegbembo et al8, reported in a national survey on dental caries status and treatment need in Nigeria that the proportion of the decayed component of DMFT was 30%, 43% and 45% among subjects aged 12, 15 and 35 – 44 years, respectively. Sofola et. al9. compared the caries prevalence of urban and rural primary school children between 4 and 16 years of age and found the prevalence of 14.4% in urban area and 5.7% in rural children. Furthermore, Okeigbeme10 in a cross sectional survey of school children aged 12-15 years in Egor district of Edo State found a prevalence of 33% among the studied children. Also, a caries prevalence of 11.2% was found in 12-14 year-old school children in Ibadan, Oyo State11.

Studies have also showed that there is relationship between dental caries and socioeconomic status12,13. There studies reported that race, income level, educational level, employment status and other socioeconomic factors have considerable impact on dental caries12,13. Dental caries has been found to be a good proxy to measure socioeconomic development14. In developed countries, higher prevalence of dental caries was found among the children of lower social class and lower prevalence in children of high socioeconomic class15. The situation was found to be on the contrary in some developing countries where caries prevalence was found to increase with increasing socioeconomic status16,17. However, in Nigeria, a search into the literature shows a dearth of information on the effect and relationship of parental socioeconomic status on dental caries prevalence of the children. Therefore, this study was designed to show the effect of parental socioeconomic status on caries prevalence of children seen at University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan within a one year period.