New study on dental health of 12-year-olds

Dr. Coretta Fergus

ST. JOHNS, Montserrat – A study of the dental health of 12-year-olds on Montserrat, conducted by Head of Dentistry for the Government of Montserrat, Dr. Coretta Fergus has been published in the West Indian Medical Journal.

According to the study, Montserrat has achieved the oral health goal established by the World Health Organisation of a DMFT index of less than three cavities per child, with an average DMFT index of 1.91 per child. (The DMFT index means the number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth due to caries also called cavities.) However, Dr. Fergus says the study also revealed that there were significantly more students with cavities dependent on their family’s socio-economic status.

“The aim of this study was to determine the cavity experience and oral health related quality of life of 12-year-olds here. I also explored any difference in the dental cavities experienced by gender and socioeconomic status,” explained the dentist. “In both cases the numbers of children we examined in the survey are too small for significance testing. However, there does not appear to be any difference in overall cavities experienced between males and females, but there is a trend towards greater cavities in children from non-professional groups.”

A total of 32 children, all students at the Montserrat Secondary School participated in the survey. The findings showed that 59% of the 12-year-olds had active untreated cavities. One child in the sample had 11 cavities. The participants had an average of 25.69 sound teeth.

While the perception of oral symptoms was low, over a third of children reported a functional impact as a result of their oral condition. The children were asked to complete the “Child Oral Health Questionnaire” before the examination. Most children (78%) rated their oral health as “good” or better. The worst commonly reported items were breathing through the mouth, slow eating, food sticking between teeth, feeling upset or nervous about appearance of teeth, difficulty doing homework because of problems with the mouth or teeth and difficulty drinking or eating foods.

“The study indicates that there is a need for improved delivery of restorative care coupled with oral health promotion and dental health education, Dr. Fergus stated. “It can be implied that not enough children are accessing the free government service regularly.”

Fergus says one compelling reason to conduct the study, which was done in 2007, was that no previous data could be found on the oral health status of Montserratian people and the oral data bank compiled by World Health Organisation (WHO) had no information on the island. “This study now gives us some baseline data for measurement of effectiveness of interventions to reduce cavities in 12-year-olds and could influence policy makers in the development of new oral health policies.”

Dr. Coretta Fergus is also the owner of Regal Dental, a full-service dentistry office located in St. John’s Montserrat. Call 496-6644 or email for more information or to make an appointment.

The full abstract and study can be found in the October 2010 edition of the West Indian Medical Journal.

About the WIMJ

The West Indian Medical Journal (WIMJ) is a peer-reviewed journal with several annual supplements that include proceedings of the Caribbean Health Research Conference, University Diabetic Outreach Project, Ophthalmological Society of the West Indies and Faculty of Medical Sciences Research. The Journal publishes a wide range of health science related topics with emphasis, but not limited to, the health issues in the Caribbean. It is published by Faculties of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus Kingston, Jamaica; St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago and The School of Clinical Medicine and Research, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.