A research report submitted to the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Dentistry Johannesburg, 2015Background: The Special Olympics/Special Smiles has been significant in highlighting the oral health needs of people with intellectual disabilities. The programme covers over 165 countries; its focus was aimed at improving the quality of life of the disabled individuals by addressing various health concerns through sports. The Objectives of the study were to determine the dental caries, oral hygiene status and other factors that contribute to the oral health status of Special Olympics athletes. The study also aimed to determine the demographic characteristics of Special Smiles Olympics athletes. Method: In this retrospective study, data collected between 2008 and 2011 as part of the Special Smiles programme, was secondarily analysed. Recorded data from 591 participants was used. The oral health status was measured using DMFT index for dental caries; and the Silness and Loe gingival and plaque indices were used for oral hygiene status. Categorical variables were compared using the chi-squared statistics or the Fisher’s exact test as appropriate. Statistical significance was inferred at p< 0.05. Results: The mean age of the subjects was 18 years, with the majority being males at 54.65% (n=323) and females at 45.35% (n= 268) with the overall caries prevalence at 56.5%. The dmft/DMFT scores across the four provinces showed significant differences. The highest scores were in Mpumalanga and Gauteng, while Kwa Zulu-Natal had the lowest scores. This indicated KwaZulu-Natal as having the lowest caries prevalence. There was a correlation between the age and DMFT scores, with DMFT scores increasing with the increase in participants’ age. Overall, the results showed that 46.56% (n=567) of the participants had a PI score of 0 and only 31.39 % (n=178) had a PI score of 1; and the majority of participants were found to have mild gingivitis 27.32% (n=153). Conclusion: The athletes were found to have high caries prevalence and the prevalence was highest in Mpumalanga and Gauteng province. The lowest prevalence was found in Kwa Zulu Natal. Caries prevalence, plaque accumulation and gingivitis were high regardless of the frequency of tooth brushing
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