In January 2010, a 43-member team representing the New York University College of Dentistry-Henry Schein Cares Global Student Outreach Program carried out the most comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment program ever undertaken in a Caribbean country, hosted by the governments of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique.
The team found that overall childhood caries prevalence was 83.4%. Approximately 25 percent of children interviewed said they do not own a toothbrush and an even greater number had never visited a dentist. Among those who had, most had likely not seen a dentist in more than two years.
“In approximately 1,000 children, we found almost 10,000 cavities,” said Dr. Mark Wolff, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cariology & Comprehensive Care and Associate Dean for Predoctoral Clinical Education, who led the Grenada outreach as Survey Director.
“Multiply that by the 26,000 children on the island, and it gives you some idea of the magnitude of decay.”
The high decay rate is tied to a lack of preventive measures, limited access to oral health care, and the high consumption of sweets.
“These alarming baseline data call for immediate caries prevention strategies on the Islands of Grenada and Carriacou,” Dr. Wolff said. “Preventive measures could include water fluoridation or salt fluoridation, oral health education, and sealants.”
“Understand, if there were 1,000 cavities, we saw 6,000 early lesions which hadn’t cavitated yet,” Dr. Wolff added. “If we intercept two-thirds of them with fluoride, we can save 4,000 cavities in the future. That’s pretty dramatic.”
The NYU team examined 1090 children ages 6, 7-8 and 14-15 at 22 schools in seven parishes. In addition to the oral health assessment, the team provided free general and emergency dental care—including fluoride varnish, sealants, root canals, fillings, and extractions.
The initial findings of the assessment along with recommendations for the establishment of an oral health model were presented to the Grenadian Ministry of Health in June 2010, and to the International Association for Dental Research in Barcelona, Spain, in July 2010.
The survey is the first phase of a four-year mission to develop a sustainable oral health model for the tri-island nation.