Despite all the public health policies, dental decay continues to be one of the most prevalent diseases in children (Siqueira et al, 2009). Among the factors related to dental decay in children is the lack of care from caregivers towards their children (Talekar et al, 2005), which can be seen as neglect (Chaves et al, 2003). However, not much is known regarding the relationship between dental decay and neglect, which is the aim of this research.
Methods 5-year-old children in a small city (Pacoti, Ceará, Brazil) with a public and well organised dental care assistance program were evaluated for dental problems, utilising the dmft index (number of decayed, missing, or filled teeth in a person), and signs of neglect (general hygiene: dental, hair, fingernail hygiene), through a visual inspection by the same investigator.
Results All 5-year-old children from the municipality were included. A total of 149 children (with parents and their children's consent), from all socio-economic levels, were examined. Only 34.9% were caries free, and more than 20% had five or more cavities. 32.9% had a dmft index of 4 or more. 64.5% had bad or partially bad oral hygiene. There was a strong and significant relationship between bad oral hygiene and dental decay experienced (dmft) (p=0.001). There was also a relationship between general hygiene and hair and fingernail hygiene (p<0.005).
Conclusion These findings suggest that children that are not properly taken care of (that have neglected their general hygiene) are more prone to have dental decay.