Mothers' oral health literacy and children's oral health status in Pikine, Senegal: A pilot study

PLoS One. 2020 Jan 23;15(1):e0226876. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0226876. eCollection 2020.


Context and objective: As elsewhere, disadvantaged children in Senegal are those most affected by dental diseases and difficulties in obtaining dental care. Studies conducted mainly in developed countries suggest that a low level of mothers' OHL is correlated with poor oral health of their children. The objective of this study is to estimate the level of mothers' OHL in Senegal and its relationto the dental health of their children.

Methods: This cross-sectional epidemiological survey took place among 315 children aged from 3 to 9 years old and their mothers. It estimated the children's dental health status by clinical examination which used a disposable examination kit and a headlamp, took place at the child's home, in the mother's presence. Examiners interviewing the mothers administered the Oral Health Literacy-Adult Questionnaire to determine their OHL and questioned them further about their social characteristics and their children's dental health behaviour. Logistic regression and correlations were used for the statistical analysis.

Results: The OHL score ranges from 0 to 17; mothers' mean score was 6.5 (±3.1) and 56.5% had a low score (below the median). The prevalence of dental caries in children was 64.8%. Mothers' high OHL is associated with children caries free and low prevalence of dental caries. The logistic regression showed a significantly protective relation between children's dental caries and mothers' high OHL scores (mean score 12-17) (OR = 0.51, 95% CI: 0.29-0.88), high educational level (OR = 0.42, 95% CI: 0.23-0.76) and a high level of social contact (OR = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.15-0.63). The structural analysis showed that OHL was significantly correlated with both the mothers' social position (r = 0.61 and P<0.001) and the children's caries (r = -0.26 and P<0.001).

Conclusion: The OHL level of Senegalese mothers was significantly associated with their children's dental caries. Improving mothers' OHL might therefore help strengthen their capacities to promote oral health, thus helping to improve their children's dental health and reduce inequalities.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dental Caries / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Literacy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Maternal Age
  • Mothers
  • Oral Health / standards*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Senegal / epidemiology
  • Sociological Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health

Grants and funding

The authors received no specific funding for this work.