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Open Access Research article

Oral healthcare of preschool children in Trinidad: a qualitative study of parents and caregivers

Rahul Naidu1*, June Nunn2 and Maarit Forde3

Author Affiliations

1 Senior Lecturer, Community Dentistry, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

2 Special Care Dentistry, Dean, School of Dental Sciences, Dublin Dental University Hospital, Lincoln Place, Dublin 2, Ireland

3 Lecturer Department of Liberal Arts, The University of the West Indies, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

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BMC Oral Health 2012, 12:27  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-12-27

Published: 3 August 2012

Abstract

Background

Little is known about oral health in early childhood in the West Indies or the views and experiences of caregivers about preventive oral care and dental attendance The aims of this study were to explore and understand parents and caregivers’ experience of oral healthcare for their preschool aged children and how, within their own social context, this may have shaped their oral health attitudes and behaviours. These data can be used to inform oral health promotion strategies for this age group.

Method

After ethical approval, a qualitative study was undertaken using a focus group approach with a purposive sample of parents and caregivers of preschool children in central Trinidad.

Group discussions were initiated by use of a topic guide. Audio recording and field notes from the three focus groups, with a total of 18 participants, were transcribed and analysed using a thematic approach.

Results

Despite some ambivalence toward the importance of the primary teeth, the role of fluoride and confusion about when to take a child for their first dental visit, most participants understood the need to ensure good oral hygiene and dietary habits for their child. Problems expressed included, overcoming their own negative experiences of dentistry, which along with finding affordable and suitable dental clinics, affected their attitude to taking their child for a dental visit. There was difficulty in establishing good brushing routines and controlling sweet snacking in the face of many other responsibilities at home. Lack of availability of paediatric dental services locally and information on oral health care were also highlighted. Many expressed a need for more contact with dental professionals in non-clinic settings, for oral health care advice and guidance.

Conclusion

Parents and caregivers in this qualitative study showed generally positive attitudes towards oral health but appear to have encountered several barriers and challenges to achieving ideal preventive care for their child, with respect to healthy diet, good oral hygiene and dental attendance. Oral health promotion should include effective dissemination of oral health information, more practical health advice and greater access to dental care for families with preschool children.

Keywords:
Preschool children; Oral health; Parents; Caregivers; Qualitative; Focus groups; West Indies