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Rural Remote Health. 2012;12:1902. Epub 2012 Jul 9.

Oral health status during pregnancy: rural-urban comparisons of oral disease burden among antenatal women in Sri Lanka.

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  • 1Community Dental Unit, Dental Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka.



Sri Lanka is a middle income country and 80% of its population lives in rural areas. There is a well organized maternal and child health program and oral health care has recently been incorporated. The aim of this study was to report the oral disease burden of rural and urban antenatal women in the Western Province of Sri Lanka, thus highlighting the need to provide oral health care to this group.


The sample consisted of 459 rural pregnant women in their second trimester and 348 urban pregnant women in their third trimester. Data were collected using interviewer administered questionnaires and a clinical oral examination conducted by calibrated examiners.


The mean Decayed Missing and Filled Teeth (DMFT) among rural antenatal women were 5.4 ± 3, with 2.27 (± 2.31) decayed teeth, 1.25 (± 1.97) missing teeth, and 1.90 (± 1.89) filled teeth. Among urban antenatal women, the mean DMFT was 3.69 (± 3.62) with 1.04 (± 2.15) decayed teeth, 1.07 (± 1.59) missing teeth and 1.59 (± 2.06) filled teeth. Rural antenatal women had a significantly higher experience of decayed teeth (p=0.001) and filled teeth (p=0.026), and twice as many untreated dental caries, compared with urban women. Moreover, almost 60% of rural women presented with bleeding gums. Similarly, the prevalence of calculus was 30.3% for rural women and 13.5% for urban women. The most significant finding was 3.5% prevalence of shallow periodontal pockets (4-5 mm) for rural women but 73.0% for urban women (p=0.0001). In the final model of multiple logistic regression analysis, significant predictors for dental caries experience were age (adjusted OR [95% CI]: 2.51 [1.55-4.06], p=0.0001) and location (urban vs rural adjusted OR [95% CI)]: 0.25 [0.11-0.55], p=0.001). However for periodontal status the only significant association was between age and Community Periodontal Index of Treatment Needs (CPITN): CPITN=0 versus CPITN>0 in bivariate analysis for the overall sample (p=0.001).


Antenatal women in Sri Lanka have a high burden of dental caries and periodontal disease. Rural women had as twice as many untreated dental caries compared with urban women, but were unlikely to use oral healthcare services due to concerns about safety in receiving dental care during pregnancy. Oral healthcare provision to antenatal women in Sri Lanka can be improved.

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