Violent husbands blamed for tooth decay in children

Violent husbands are partly to blame for increasing dental caries among 3-5-year-old children in Kenya and other poor countries.

A study in Kenya and other 19 countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America has drawn a link between domestic violence and child dental caries.

In households where young children had a high incidence of dental cavities, the researchers report a likelihood the man of the house is abusive.

Of the 20 sampled countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had the highest prevalence of physical violence and corresponding rates of dental caries in children.

The study reports almost half, 45.8 percent of women in the DRC experience physical violence. A deeper look into health data showed 80 percent of children aged 3-5 had dental caries, the highest among the 20 study countries.

This was followed by Uganda, which had the highest rates of emotional violence against women. “The highest prevalence of emotional violence, 41.7 percent, was in Uganda where dental caries in children was also high at 41 percent,” says the study.

Kenya, Tanzania Pakistan, and Peru were the other countries with high rates of child cavities and corresponding emotional violence against women.

Of three types of violence; sexual, physical, and emotional, the latter, the study says had the strongest link to dental caries in children.

“Women’s exposure to emotional violence had stronger associations with the prevalence of children dental caries than physical and sexual violence.”  

The study was published last month (26th July 2021) on AAS Open Research online platform.

To some, the study may seem like another dig at men if not for the institutions and data sources involved.

The study was carried out by six leading university dental schools in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Canada.

The team pored over national demographic health surveys from the study counties for a 10 year period. The data covered 222,485 children aged 3-5 and 211,636 women from the study countries.

These included Kenya, Cambodia, Colombia, DR Congo, Egypt, Gambia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ukraine.

Explaining what male violence has got to do with child dental cavities the authors say partner violence, especially emotional violence is likely to affect a woman’s mental health and functioning.

Women suffering emotional violence the study says are likely to exhibit traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts, and low self-esteem.

“Emotional violence can therefore compromise the ability of women to care for children who are entirely dependent on them for daily oral hygiene and access to professional oral health care services.”

Such women, the study says may lose the ability or interest to perform various routine actions including child tooth brushing which is a significant risk factor for poor oral hygiene and dental caries.

Globally early childhood caries (ECC) is indicated as the 10th most prevalent childhood illness.

About Gatonye Gathura 125 Articles
Science Journalist

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