The association between minor recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS), children's poor oral condition, and underlying negative psychosocial habits and attitudes towards oral hygiene

BMC Pediatr. 2018 Apr 13;18(1):136. doi: 10.1186/s12887-018-1094-y.


Background: Minor Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis (RAS) represents a disease which is very difficult to prevent. This case-control study focused on possible associations between minor Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis in children, their oral health, and underlying behavioral indexes of children's attitudes and habits pertaining to (home) oral hygiene, with the further goal of enabling the dentist to prevent these specific kind of lesions, both from a clinical and a broader psychosocial perspective.

Methods: Four hundred one school-children (5-10 years old) in Milan (Italy) were submitted to an intra-oral examination, and interviewed with the aid of a brief psychosocial questionnaire.

Results: At the clinical level, statistically significant associations were observed between the presence of decayed teeth and minor Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis (Odds Ratio: 3.15; 95% CI: lower limit 1.06; upper limit: 9.36; Z-test: 2.07, p = 0.039; Chi-square = 4.71, p = 0.030), and between the Decayed Missing or Filled Teeth (DMFT) index and minor aphthous stomatitis (Odds Ratio: 3.30; 95% CI: lower limit 1.13; upper limit: 9.67; Z-test = 2.18, p = 0.029; Chi-square = 5.27; p = 0.022), both results pointing to a significant increase-by circa 3 times-in the risk of developing minor Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis in children exposed to the two above-identified factors (i.e., the presence of decayed teeth and a clearly compromised oral condition, as signaled by the DMFT index), if compared with the risk run by their non-exposed counterparts. At the psychosocial level of analysis, statistically significant associations were observed (1) between children's practice of spontaneously brushing teeth when not at home and a comparatively lower (i.e. better) Decayed Missing or Filled Teeth index (Chi-square: 8.95; p = 0.011), and (2) between receiving parental aid (e.g., proper brushing instructions) while practicing home oral hygiene and a significantly reduced presence of decayed teeth (Chi-square = 5.40; p = .067; Spearman's Rho, p = .038). Further, significant associations were also observed between children's reported severity of dental pain and both (a) the presence of decayed teeth (Chi-square = 10.80; p = 0.011), and (b) children's (poor) oral health condition as expressed by the Decayed Missing or Filled Teeth index (Chi-square = 6.29; p = 0.043). Interestingly, specific lifestyles and social status, showed no systematic association to other clinical or psychological/psychosocial indices.

Conclusions: These systematic relations suggest that, in the presence of Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis in pediatric patients, the dentist should carefully monitor children for potential carious lesions, implement protocols of prevention to control Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis disease in children affected by caries, and also be particularly aware of the right or wrong habits children may acquire in the course of continued social exchange with their caregivers and peers.

Keywords: Aphthous; Applied Social Psychology; Caries; Dental; Habits, and Oral Health; Psychosocial Prevention and Control; Psychosocial Attitudes; Stomatitis.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dental Caries / complications
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Habits*
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Oral Hygiene / psychology*
  • Recurrence
  • Stomatitis, Aphthous / complications
  • Stomatitis, Aphthous / epidemiology*
  • Stomatitis, Aphthous / prevention & control
  • Stomatitis, Aphthous / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires