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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


NARVAI, Paulo Capel; FRAZAO, Paulo; RONCALLI, Angelo Giuseppe  and  ANTUNES, José Leopoldo F.. Dental caries in Brazil: decline, polarization, inequality and social exclusion. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2006, vol.19, n.6, pp.385-393. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the caries situation in Brazilian schoolchildren between 1980 and 2003 and to determine the distribution of caries and access to treatment in this population group. METHODS: We employed secondary data concerning the number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (DMFT). The studies whose data were used differed in terms of study type, study design, sampling methods, and diagnostic criteria, but yielded national estimates that are considered valid for the DMFT index. Therefore, a trend analysis based on these studies was thought to be feasible. RESULTS: Analysis of DMFT values revealed a high frequency of dental caries in 1980 and a moderate frequency in the 1990s. In 2003, the DMFT index was still within the moderate range (2, 8). Between 1980 and 2003, a 61.7% decrease in DMFT frequency was observed. The percentage of children with no DMFT increased from 3.7% in 1986 to 31.1% in 2003. On the other hand, in the segment of the study population least affected, the percentage of children who received care increased from 26.3 in 1986 to 34.7 in 2003, yet in the group with DMFT this percentage fell from 50.2 in 1986 to 39.3 in 2003. In the segment with DMFT > 6, the percentage of those who received care remained stable (28%). During the study period, 60% of the dental caries were found in 20% of the study population. CONCLUSION: An important decline in DMFT was observed between 1980 and 2003, perhaps as a result of increased access to fluoridated water and toothpaste and of changes in the goals of public oral health programs. Despite the improvement, caries is unevenly distributed in the pediatric population; a small proportion of individuals carries most of the disease burden. In addition, the proportion of teeth with caries that went untreated did not change between 1980 and 2003. Reducing socioeconomic disparities and adopting public health measures that target and reach the most vulnerable groups remain a challenge for policy makers in Brazil.

Keywords : Toothpaste; equity in access; fluoridation; DMF index; Brazil.

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