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Etiology and effects of dental anxiety on early oral health seeking behavior among 9 to 15 year old children in Nairobi Primary School

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SUMMARY
Background

Dental anxiety among children is a major problem in pediatric dentistry. It may make dental visits a nightmare for the dentist, children and for the parents as well. It may adversely affect early oral health seeking habits. It is important to know the causes of dental anxiety in children so as to address the
problem effectively
Objective
The objective of this study was to determine the causes and effects of dental anxiety on early oral health
seeking behavior among 9 to 15 year old primary school going children.
Study design
A descriptive cross sectional study.
Setting
The study was conducted in Nairobi Primary School.
Study participants
9 to 15 year olds attending Nairobi Primary School.
Methodology
120 children aged 9 to 15 years were selected using stratified random sampling technique. Data was
collected using a standard modified dental anxiety scale questionnaire. Some of the variables investigated included age, gender, frequency of past dental visits and dental anxiety. The data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Means, percentages and ratios were
used to compare the variables and the results presented in charts, tables and graphs.
Results
Causes of dental anxiety varied as 4 children(6%) felt that they had low tolerance to discomfort and pain in general, 34(52%) worried about dental treatment because they were unsure of what is involved,
19(29%)worried that the local anesthetic used would not work while 12(18%) had fear of choking 01"
gagging during treatment. Those who attributed their dental anxiety to bad past experiences during
dental treatment were 27(42%). On oral health seeking behavior, 63(44%) had previously had a dental problem and withheld it from parent or guardian for fear of being taken to the dentist. On dental anxiety
levels based on the MDAS, majority of the children (43%) had moderate anxiety, scoring between 10 and
15. Children who were not anxious were 6(9%), moderate anxiety in 24(37%) and severe anxiety in 7(11%). Assessment of dental anxiety levels in different situations related to dental treatment showed that majority (43%) had highest anxiety as the dentist prepared the needle for an injection. A large number of children, (44%) had previously withheld a dental problem for fear of being taken to the dentist
Conclusions
Majority of the study participants' anxiety (52%) was because they were unsure of what is involved in dental treatment.
Dental anxiety had an effect on early oral health seeking behavior and causes delay in seeking treatment.
Recommendations
Awareness should be raised about the various causes of dental anxiety in children and its effects on early oral health seeking behavior. This will enable dentists and the dental team as a whole to manage child patients better. Dentist should therefore explain the treatment to the patient and calm them before beginning.

 

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