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08 February 2023

Sociobehavioral factors in child oral health during COVID-19


Objectives

The aim of this study was to identify the sociobehavioral factors that influenced children's oral health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods

The online cross-sectional study was conducted in Al Jouf Province in the northern region of Saudi Arabia. A total of 960 parents of children aged five to 14 years were invited by multistage stratified random sampling. The research team performed descriptive, multinomial and multiple logistic regression analyses to estimate odds ratios and determine the relationship between independent and dependent variables. P < .05 was considered statistically significant.

Results

Of the 960 participants, 693 or 72%, reported that their child had one or more untreated dental decay. The children of uneducated parents were 1.6-fold more likely to have one or more untreated dental decay.

The children of unemployed parents were 4.3-fold more likely to have a financial burden for a children's dental visit. Parents from a rural area were 26.3-fold more likely to have had a lag period of over two years since their child's last dental visit. Nursery-age children were 5.4-fold more likely to need immediate care.

Conclusions

Children in this study had a high prevalence of self-reported dental caries. Researchers also found that children in rural areas, uneducated, unemployed, widow or divorced, low- and middle-income parents and nursery school children were linked to poorly predictive outcomes of child oral health during the pandemic.

Researchers suggest that oral health professionals and policymakers should increase the utilization of preventive oral health services and promote preventive health-seeking behaviors among children and their families to prevent the onset of oral disease and to intervene in a timely manner during a pandemic. Policymakers and oral health care providers should adopt policies to provide primary preventive care and enhance patient education by using technology such as teledentistry.

Further longitudinal studies should be conducted to determine the sociobehavioral barriers that affect child oral health in handling future epidemic or pandemic emergencies. The research team also recommends that oral health literacy programs could shift parents’ attitude on accessing dental care and encourage early preventive oral care for children, particularly those at high risk for oral disease and those from low-income families.

Ravi Kumar Gudipaneni et al. "Sociobehavioural Factors Associated With Child Oral Health During COVID-19." International Dental Journal, 12 December 2022. ISSN 0020-6539, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.identj.2022.12.003.

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