Purpose: To assess and compare the oral health status and treatment need among the preschool children attending Anganwadi Centres associated with a special learning programme (SLP) and the control group.
Materials and Methods: The study was designed to include 3- to 5-year-old preschool children attending Anganwadis. An Anganwadi (meaning courtyard) Centre is the focal point for the delivery of services to children and mothers. The Anganwadis associated with the special learning programme and the control group Anganwadis consisted of 255 and 275 children, respectively. The special learning programme comprised general health education and growth monitoring services that were continuously reinforced to expectant and nursing mothers of children below 6 years of age by a team of members of a nearby medical college. Information on demographic and socioeconomic parameters (maternal literacy and occupation, paternal literacy and occupation, family income), oral hygiene practices, dietary habits and dental visits was obtained, and oral examination was done in the two groups.
Results: The mean plaque index and mean gingival index score among the SLP Anganwadi group were 0.18 ± 0.22 and 0.15 ± 0.28, respectively, and among the control group these indices were 1.06 ± 0.50 and 0.50 ± 0.00, respectively. The mean dmft score among the SLP group was 3.40 ± 4.84 vs 4.32 ± 4.69 in the control group (p < 0.05). The distribution of children without any treatment need was 50.2% in the SLP group and 33.5% in the control group.
Conclusion: The SLP Anganwadi group had a better oral health status and less treatment need than the control Anganwadi group. This demonstrates that there is a beneficial effect of general health education on oral health.
Keywords: Anganwadi Centres, general health education, oral health status, preschool children, special learning programme