A study of dietary patterns, nutritional status and dental caries in pre-school children in Nairobi, Kenya
A cross-sectional study covering 16 pre-schools randomly selected from four divisions in the city of Nairobi was carried out between January and April 1997. A total of 304 children aged 3-5 years were covered by the study. The study aimed at determining the dietary patterns, prevalence of dental caries and the nutritional status of the children. A semi-structured self administered questionnaire was sent to the parents/guardians of the children through the assistance of the teachers. The questionnaire was used to acquire information on the demographic characteristj_cs of the families from which the children were drawn and the di2tary patterns of the children. The nutritional status of the children was assessed through anthropometric measurements, while the prevalence of dental caries was assessed by physical examination of the teeth. Majority of the mothers, 89.5% fell in the age group of 20 - 40 years. More than 50% of the parents had more than 8 years of schooling, and 86.2% of the fathers and 68.8% of the mothers had some form of occupation. The mean breast feeding duration of the children was 20.17 months (SD 10.39) and about 41% of the children had been bottlefed, for a mean duration of 13.58 months (SD 12."4).Maj ori ty of the children were weaned early, 61.5% of them at four months of age. The study children consumed a wide variety of foods with over 70% consuming fruits, vegetables and fats daily, while 80.9% of them consumed milk daily. Tea with sugar was consumed by 84.9% of the children daily. Animal foods were rarely consumed. The snacks mostly consumed in school included cereals by 62.5% of the children, and sweets and confectionaries by 30.9%, while the beverages consumed were mainl~ juices and sodas by 41.1% of the children and milk by 13.8%. The rates of malnutrition were low with underweight at 1.6%, stunting at 4.3% and wasting at 1.0%. Some of the children were obese with 2.7% being overweight by weight for age and 3.3% overweight by weight for height, while 2.4% were taller than their expected height for age. Up to 94.4% of the children brushed their teeth, with 90.1% using a commercial toothbrush and 4.3% a chewing stick. Of the total who brushed, 93.1% used toothpaste. A high proportion, (91%) of the children had bacterial plaque on the index teeth. The prevalence of dental caries was high at 63.5%, and a dmft of 2.95. Only 1.3% of the children had filled teeth. The study shows that there was a relatively high consumption of sugar by the children, the rates of malnutrition were low and that the prevalence of dental caries was very high among the children studied. The high prevalence of dental caries raises a strong public health concern.