E.A. Idowu1 , A.O. Afolabi2 , B.O. Fakuade3 , O.B. Akintububo3 and O. Ibiyemi4

  1. Faculty of Dentistry, University of Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria
  2. Department of Dental Services, Federal Medical Centre, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria
  3. Federal Teaching Hospital, Gombe, Gombe State, Nigeria.
  4. Department of Periodontology and Community Dentistry, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.


Background: Self-medication is widely practiced worldwide. Literatures abound on its use for medical ailments but there is paucity of information for dental complaints especially in Northeastern Nigeria. Hence, this study was designed to determine the prevalence of self-medication for dental problems before dental consultation and its associated factors among patients attending Federal Teaching Hospital (FTH), Dental and Maxillofacial Outpatient Clinic, Gombe, Gombe State, Nigeria.

Materials and Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study based on a structured pretested close-ended interviewer-administered questionnaire was distributed among adults visiting FTH outpatient dental clinic, Gombe, Nigeria for a period of 8 months. The questionnaire was composed of two main sections: demographic characteristics and questions assessing the behaviour of self-medication. The non-probability convenient sampling technique was used and data was stored and analysed using IBM-Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 23.0.

Results: The results showed that the prevalence of self-medication was found to be 41.5% (194/468), with a higher prevalence among females (55.1% or 107/194) than males (44.9% or 87/194). The majority (52% or101/194) of the patients were in the 2-4th decades of life. Educational status was significantly associated with self-medication. Analgesics accounted for the greatest percentage (98/164 or 59.8%) of orthodox drugs used followed by antibiotics (62/164 or 37.8%). However, with respect to individual medication consumed, paracetamol accounted for the majority (28.7%). A greater number (55/194 or 28.4%) could not remember the name of the orthodox drugs they took before consultations. Street hawkers were the main source of these medicaments (36.6 or 71/194%). Fear of dental treatment (20.1% 39/194), ailment is simple and the need not to see a dentist (20.1% 39/194) were claimed to be the main reason for practicing self-medication with periodontitis (53.1% or 103/194), pulpitis (13.9% or 27/194) and pericoronitis (10.8% or 21/194) the main predictors.

Conclusion: The prevalence of self-medications to dental problems in this study was discovered to be high with the use of both orthodox and unidentified traditional drugs. National Health Insurance Scheme should be made to cover all social group of Nigerians in order to encourage easy accessibilities of all people to wide range of medical and dental consultations, thereby discouraging the practice of self-medication.

Keywords: Self-medication, Dental patients, North-eastern Nigeria.


Dr. A.O. Afolabi

Dept. of Dental Services,

Federal Medical Centre,

Owo, Ondo State,



Self-medication is described as the use of drugs without the advice and monitoring by a physician or the use of a drug without consulting a qualified health care professional to alleviate stress or disorders such as diseases, depression and anxiety.1,2,3 It is defined by World Health Organization (WHO) as the use of drugs to treat self-diagnosed disorder or symptoms or the intermittent or continuous use of prescribed drugs for chronic or recurrent diseases.4 It suffices to say that self-medication is a self-care attitude which is an attribute of poor health seeking behavior. The prevalence varies as evidenced from studies in southern Nigeria (92,.3%), Cameroon (67.8%), Jordan (46%), Greece (44.6%), Lithuania (22%), USA (17%) and Spain (11%).5,6,7,8 Certain health challenges have been reported to be associated with the practice of selfmedication world-wide. These include drug misuse, non-compliance with appropriate dosage hence development of anti-microbial resistance strains, drug interaction, liver failure and disorder of gastro intestinal system due to analgesic overdose for pain alleviation, hypersensitivity reactions, drug addiction and consumption of expired drugs.9,10,11,12,13,14 In many instances, these set of complications may negate any presumed or perceived advantages of self-medication. Reasons attributed to the practice of self-medication include shortage of Doctors, economic hardship, ignorance, hindrances and barrier to health care providers, political challenges, social and religious belief, lack of monitoring of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and unwillingness of many people to spend money and time to get medical attention from appropriate quarters.1,17,18,19,20 While severity of signs and symptoms of certain diseases have been implicated as predisposing factors to self-medications, the perception by many people that physician should be seen only for serious ailments have also been reported.19,20

Though there had been extensive research into the practice of self-medication, there is a limited information about its modality among dental patients in developing countries where oral health burden is more compared to developed countries of the world.15,16The few available studies in Nigeria are from Southern part while there is paucity of reports from Northern Nigeria hence this study from Northeastern city of Gombe. This study is therefore designed to determine the prevalence of self-medication to dental problems before dental consultation, identify drugs that are commonly self-medicated, identify the sources of these drugs, analyze the reasons for self-medication and dental diseases associated with it and the level of awareness of complications of self-medication among dental out patients. Significantly, this study will contribute to the body of existing knowledge on self-medication to oral and dental problems. The outcome of this present study may be found useful for holistic oral health care planning and delivery among Nigerians