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Objective: Dental caries is the most common dental disease. Factors influencing dental caries status approximate the determinants of oral health status. Today’s dental students will provide dental services in the future and will be responsible for the public’s oral health education and status. Hence the objective of this study was to identify the factors influencing dental caries status among undergraduate dental students in Nigerian Universities.
Methods: The study was a cross sectional survey involving the use of a multi-stage sampling technique to select 812 undergraduate dental students from six institutions. Information on socio-demographic characteristics and oral health-related knowledge, attitudes and practices of the students were collected using a well-structured questionnaire. The DMFT index was used to assess the dental caries status. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Chi-square test and binary logistic regression at 5% level of significance.
Results: The mean age of the respondents was 22.0±3.0 years. The overall prevalence of dental caries was 24%. The DMFT range was 0.0 – 8.0 with median DMFT score of 0.0. The students’ dental caries status was influenced by location of study (p<0.0001), and parents’ highest educational level (p<0.05). Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife students were 3 times less likely to have dental caries compared to Bayero University, Kano students (OR = 0.34, 95% CI: 0.15 – 0.76). Participants whose fathers had no formal education were 13 times more likely to have dental caries compared to participants whose fathers had tertiary education (OR = 13.308, 95% CI: 2.25 – 78.87).
Conclusion: The dental caries status of the dental students was good, but bad oral health practices are likely to worsen it. As part of their curriculum therefore, dental students should start learning about preventive aspects of oral health as early as their first undergraduate year.