Prevalence of early childhood caries in South Africa: Protocol for a systematic review
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Young children are at the highest risk of developing dental caries as they have a lack of autonomy over their diet and oral hygiene practices. Dental caries develops over time due to demineralization of tooth substance (enamel), which results from acid production during sugar metabolism by bacteria. Early onset of dental caries often results in asymptomatic presentation, but if left untreated, it can result in severe pain, infection, and dentoalveolar abscesses. Early childhood caries (ECC) is defined as dental caries in children aged 6 years and younger and is a significant public health problem in South Africa. According to the Global Burden of Disease study, untreated dental caries of primary teeth affects 532 million children. Untreated dental caries has many detrimental effects which can affect the physical development and reduce the quality of life of affected children. Furthermore, long-term untreated dental caries can result in school absenteeism, low BMI, and poor educational outcomes.