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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Maternal-Child Nutrition and Oral Health in Vietnam: A Longitudinal Study

  • Author(s): Ta, Michelle L
  • Advisor(s): Ivey, Susan
  • et al.

Objective: This study evaluates the impact of an oral health and nutrition intervention in children aged 2 to 6 years old in Central and South Vietnam. Associations between early childhood caries, child nutritional status, and level of oral health and nutrition education of parents were evaluated longitudinally.

Methods: A total of 593 parent-child pairs were recruited from 5 primary schools in Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, Vietnam in 2011. Children ages 2, 3 and 4 from the baseline year in 2011 were used as the comparison group and followed for two consecutive years from 2011 to 2013. The intervention was comprised of oral health and nutrition education, fluoride varnish application, and dental screenings. Parents completed surveys about children’s dietary habits, oral health practices, and dental history. Children received annual anthropometric assessment and dental examinations.

Results: There was a high prevalence of dental caries (58.5% – 84.8%) and untreated decay (89.9% – 97.5%) in this population. The number of treated teeth and reported children who own their own toothbrushes and toothpaste increased during the course of the study. The proportion of parents giving their children soda, juice, and chips increased each year. In addition, the prevalence of overweight/obese children increased each study year.

Conclusion: This study showed that preschool-aged children in urban/suburban Vietnam experienced a high prevalence of early childhood caries and overweight status. As children grew older, they consumed higher amounts of sugar sweetened beverages and junk food. The high proportion of 2-year-olds with tooth decay conveys the need for pre-natal and infant oral health and nutritional education to begin before age 2. Physical exercise should also be promoted in conjunction with a healthier lifestyle. These programs should place emphasis on less consumption of unhealthy foods and accessible dental care for children in order to prevent early childhood caries.

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