ABSTRACT. EFFECTS OF DIET AND ORAL HEALTH HABITS ON AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS IN AMERICA L. Wynn Palmer, Nicole Okazaki, PhD, Laurence Palmer, DDS.
Upon arrival from Congo, thirteen immigrants suffered such dental problems as caries, plaque, teeth sensitivity, and toothache. We were able to assess the damage, find out the major causes, and inform future immigrants of preventative techniques for oral health.
Observations from a local dental practice indicate that Congolese families who’ve immigrated to Ogden, Utah, have needed more dental care after their arrival in the United States of America. The goal of this study was to 1) quantify the rate of tooth decay before and after immigration, 2) examine associated factors such as plaques, hygiene habits, the presence of other oral conditions, and 3) suggest some remedies in order to improve dental condition. It is hypothesized that oral health habits, in addition to change in diet will lead to oral denigration.
Of the many changes in diet upon arrival, soda pop was universal among the thirteen subjects.
As hypothesized, immigration had a profound impact on the decay of teeth. Nearly all of the subjects had experienced multiple problems shortly after their arrival to the U.S. A systematic review indicates that professional flossing reduces caries by 40% (Hujoel, 2005). Oral hygiene was viewed and practiced differently in Congo. Upon arrival, oral health habits were slow to change; therefore, dental problems increased. Diet is a controlling factor in dental disease (Wilson, 1979). All immigrants reported a major increase, in their intake of sugars, particularly soda. Many have had an increase in stress, leading to a higher caloric diet (often rich in starch), thus causing more dental problems. This study shows the importance of adaptation upon changing environment. Hopefully, many future immigrants will benefit from this project.
Upon collecting these surveys, and speaking with the subject’s dentists, we were able to assess just how widespread dental problems were.While cavities were rare in Congo, they averaged 9 per person after immigration. While only seven dental problems were reported in Congo, they increased to thirty-six in the US, when zero flossing had been achieved throughout the year. Significant increases in dental plaque, toothache, and teeth sensitivity after immigration were also experienced. Survey results showed that a change in diet and lack of prompt dental care contributed to the rapid decay of teeth.
The red arrow indicates an abscessed tooth (a problem experienced by two subjects).
Fifteen Congolese subjects were asked to fill out a survey on their dental history before and after immigration. The survey requested information about dental/oral hygiene as well as oral/dental health prior to and after immigration. Such questions included: Before (and then after) immigration, how many times per week did you floss your teeth? etc. The subject was then given four options including: zero, once, two to four, and daily. We also asked, as part of the survey, subjects to list their current dentist for additional information regarding dental history and/or current dental issues. The effect of immigration from Africa to the USA on oral/dental health and oral hygiene was tested. Nonparametric "Wilcoxon's signed-ranks" test assessed the significance of the difference for each parameter within individual cases. (Sokal and Rohlf, 1997).
Sokal R.R. and F.J. Rohlf. 1997. Biometry. The principles and practice of statistics in biological research, third ed. W.H. Freeman and Company New York. P.P. Hujoel. 2005. Critical Reviews in Oral Biology and Medicine. Dental Flossing and Interproximal Caries a Systematic Review. [email protected] S.W. Wilson. 1979. Diet and Dental Disease. World Archealogy. Vol. 11 No. 2 (Oct 1979 ) pp 147-162
Thanks the Office of Undergraduate Research for the opportunity to do the work and present the poster.