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Open Access Short Report

Self-reported poor oral hygiene among in-school adolescents in Zambia

Seter Siziya1, Adamson S Muula2* and Emmanuel Rudatsikira3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine, University of Zambia, Medical School, Lusaka, Zambia

2 Department of Community Health, University of Malawi, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi

3 School of Community and Environmental Health, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:255  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-255

Published: 22 July 2011



Dental health is a neglected aspect of adolescent health globally but more so in low-income countries. Secondary analysis using the 2004 Zambia Global School-Based Health Survey (GSHS) was conducted in which we estimated frequencies of relevant socio-demographic variables and explored associations between selected explanatory variables and self-reported poor oral hygiene (not cleaning or brushing teeth) within the last 30 days of the completion of questionnaire.


Most of the 2257 respondents were males (53.9%) and went hungry (82.5%). More than 4 in 10 respondents drank alcohol (42.2%) while 37.2% smoked cannabis. Overall 10.0% of the respondents reported to have poor oral hygiene. Male respondents were 7% less likely to report to have poor oral hygiene compared to females. Compared to respondents who never drank alcohol, those who drank alcohol were 27% more likely to report to have poor oral hygiene. Respondents who smoked cannabis were 4% more likely to report to have poor oral hygiene compared to those who did not smoke cannabis. Finally, respondents who went hungry were 35% more likely to report to have poor oral hygiene compared to those who did not go hungry.


Results from this study indicate that female gender, alcohol drinking, cannabis smoking, and going hungry were associated with self-reported poor oral hygiene. The identification of these factors should guide the design and implementation of programs aimed to improve oral health among adolescents.