Grenada study: 1,000 kids, 10,000 caries

The first comprehensive national oral health survey to be conducted in Grenada discovered an alarming rate of childhood caries, according to researchers from the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry.

In January 2010, a 43-member team representing the dental school and Henry Schein Cares Global Student Outreach Program carried out the oral health assessment and treatment program, hosted by the governments of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique.

The NYU team examined 1,090 children ages 6, 7-8, and 14-15 at 22 schools in seven parishes. In addition to the oral health assessment, the team provided free general and emergency dental care -- including fluoride varnish, sealants, root canals, fillings, and extractions.

The team found that overall childhood caries prevalence was 83.4%. Approximately 25% of children interviewed said they do not own a toothbrush and an even greater number had never visited a dentist. Among those who had, most had likely not seen a dentist in more than two years.

"In approximately 1,000 children, we found almost 10,000 cavities," said Mark Wolff, D.D.S., Ph.D., a professor and chair of the department of cariology and comprehensive care and associate dean for predoctoral clinical education at the dental school, who led the Grenada outreach as survey director. "Multiply that by the 26,000 children on the island, and it gives you some idea of the magnitude of decay."

The high decay rate is tied to a lack of preventive measures, limited access to oral healthcare, and the high consumption of sweets, the researchers noted.

"These alarming baseline data call for immediate caries prevention strategies on the islands of Grenada and Carriacou," Dr. Wolff said. Preventive measures could include water fluoridation or salt fluoridation, oral health education, and sealants, he noted.

"Understand, if there were 1,000 cavities, we saw 6,000 early lesions which hadn't cavitated yet," Dr. Wolff added. "If we intercept two-thirds of them with fluoride, we can save 4,000 cavities in the future. That's pretty dramatic."

The initial findings of the assessment, along with recommendations for the establishment of an oral health model, were presented to the Grenadian Ministry of Health in June and during the International Association for Dental Research meeting in Barcelona, Spain, in July.

The survey is the first phase of a four-year mission to develop a sustainable oral health model for the tri-island nation.

Copyright © 2010

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