Long-Term Effects of a Randomized Maternal Education Trial in Rural Uganda: Implications for Child Oral Health

Engh MS, Muhoozi GKM, Ngari M, Skaare AB, Westerberg AC, Iversen PO, Brusevold IJ, Atukunda P
Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2022;107

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The aim was to examine oral health among 5-6-year-old children whose mothers participated in a 6 months' cluster-randomized education trial in rural Uganda starting when their children were 6-8 months old. The education focused on nutrition, oral hygiene, and child stimulation. In the current follow-up study, 357/511 (70%) children from the original trial were available for data collection (200 in the intervention and 157 in the control group). Molar caries was assessed on intraoral photographs. Children and/or caregivers answered a WHO health questionnaire for collection of oral data. Dental practices were compared between the intervention and control group using multilevel mixed effect logistic regression accounting for clustering. The children in the intervention group had less caries compared with the control group: 41% versus 60% (odds ratio [OR] 0.46; 95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.24-0.86, P = 0.02). The use of toothbrush to clean teeth was more frequent in the intervention than in the control group: 66% versus 38% (OR 3.39; 95% CI 1.54-7.45, P = 0.003), as was high teeth-cleaning frequency: 74% versus 62% (OR 1.72; 95% CI 1.09-2.69, P = 0.02). Self-reported problems such as toothache (10% versus 19%), difficulty biting (12% versus 24%) and chewing food (8.5% versus 18%) were significantly less frequent among children in the intervention compared with the control group. No significant differences were found in dietary habits. Our data shows that an educational intervention adjusted to a low-resource setting, provided in infancy, resulted in improved oral hygiene and reduced development of dental caries among children aged 5-6 years.