Indian Journal of Dental Research

: 2013  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 242--244

Dental myths, oral hygiene methods and nicotine habits in an ageing rural population: An Indian study

Saumyendra V Singh, Zafar Akbar, Arvind Tripathi, Suresh Chandra, Anurag Tripathi 
 Department of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, C. S. M. Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Correspondence Address:
Saumyendra V Singh
Department of Prosthodontics, Faculty of Dental Sciences, C. S. M. Medical University, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh


Background: Though, increased emphasis is being given on spreading dental care facilities and awareness in Indian villages, the target population is unfortunately less literate and is not financially equipped compared to their urban counterparts. The rural aged additionally may have to face problems like desertion by the educated youth to follow better opportunities in cities, disease, and lack of mobility. Aims: The present study strived to evaluate dental myths, oral hygiene methods, and tobacco habits awareness in a rural ageing population in the perspective of a changing India. Setting and Design: The study area consisted of a group of ten villages, situated in district Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India. Materials and Methods: The subjects were questioned about dental myths, tobacco habits, and oral hygiene methods and then divided into groups on the basis of age, sex, and educational status. The number of sound teeth in each subject was also counted. Statistical Analysis: Mean-values, standard deviation, Chi-square test and P values were used to make inter-group comparisons. Results and Conclusion: Forty percent of the subjects considered oral hygiene unnecessary, 60.8% of the population was relying on simple mouth rinsing for maintaining oral hygiene, 48% had either the habit of smoking and chewing tobacco or both and 81% of the subjects had one dental myth or the other. We concluded that the rural aged is a deprived lot and a targeted program to infuse scientific dental practices in them is necessary.

How to cite this article:
Singh SV, Akbar Z, Tripathi A, Chandra S, Tripathi A. Dental myths, oral hygiene methods and nicotine habits in an ageing rural population: An Indian study.Indian J Dent Res 2013;24:242-244

How to cite this URL:
Singh SV, Akbar Z, Tripathi A, Chandra S, Tripathi A. Dental myths, oral hygiene methods and nicotine habits in an ageing rural population: An Indian study. Indian J Dent Res [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 May 22 ];24:242-244
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Villages, which still constitute a very large portion of India are given a lot of attention in oral and dental health education programs in an effort to reduce the rural-urban disparities. [1] We targeted the rural aged as our study population with this background, as they may be more dependent on rural dental awareness and care facilities compared to the youth, who frequently travel to urban areas in search of financial opportunities. [2] Our aim was to evaluate the level of dental awareness and education in these people by assessing the prevalence of dental myths, oral hygiene methods, and nicotine habits. The selected villages fell in a cluster just fourteen kilometers from the center of Lucknow, the capital of the most populated state Uttar Pradesh of India.

 Materials and Methods

The study was conducted in a group of ten villages in district Lucknow, the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Six Hundred Eighty-one willing subjects from these villages aged 50 years and above formed the study sample. Prior permission was obtained from the concerned village elders and individual informed consent was compulsorily taken. Close-ended multiple choice questions based on available literature were presented in the vernacular to the subjects on awareness of oral hygiene necessity, methods for maintaining oral hygiene, presence of tobacco habits and prevalence of the dental myths, to facilitate data processing and avoid ambiguity. [3],[4] Age, sex, and educational status of the subjects were recorded and the subjects divided into groups on their basis as follows:

Age: Group A1: 50-54 years, Group A2: 55-64 years, Group A3: 65 years or more.

Sex: Group M: Males, Group F: Females.

Educational status: Group E 0 : Illiterate, Group E 1 : Educated to or below primary level (Std V), Group E 2 : Educated above primary level.

The number of intact, immobile, functioning teeth in each individual were also counted. [5] After data collection, analysis was done using standard statistical tests such as mean, standard deviation, Chi-square test and P values (alpha < 05).


On the question of oral hygiene necessity [Table 1], 40% of the study sample did not consider it necessary. The average number of sound teeth in subjects, who considered oral hygiene necessary was higher (20) than those who did not (16). While, 36% of subjects in the A1 group considered oral hygiene unnecessary, a significantly higher 48% in A3 group, had the same opinion.{Table 1}

The comparison of oral hygiene methods [Table 2] showed that mouth rinsing and finger brushing was the predominant method adopted by 60.8% of subjects, followed by 'Datoon' or "Neem" twig chewing (21.2%) and tooth-brushing (18%). Tooth-brushing was more popular in Groups A1 and E 2 (60%). The average number of teeth seen in subjects practicing different methods was; Mouth rinsing/finger brushing-15, "Datoon"- 23 and Tooth-brushing-25.{Table 2}

When the nicotine habits of the study sample were compared [Table 3], 76% of the male and 48% of the total subjects either smoked or chewed tobacco. Smoking was found to be significantly lesser in the E 2 group. Average number of teeth in subjects who had no habits (20) was significantly higher in comparison to subjects who smoked and/or chewed tobacco.{Table 3}

The common dental myths in the study sample in decreasing order of prevalence [Table 4] were: tooth loss is a natural outcome of ageing (58.6%), tobacco consumption prevents caries/periodontitis (56.8%), and dental diseases are curable solely by medicines (55.5%), professional dental cleaning causes loosening of teeth (47.1%) and extraction of teeth leads to weakening of eye sight (26.9%). On the study population 81% believed in one dental myth or the other and the prevalence of myths was higher in Groups F and E 0 .{Table 4}


Oral hygiene awareness and practices differ from country to country and community to community. Unfortunately little such epidemiological data is available for India where villages still comprise more than two-thirds of the country. [4] The present work was done with the aim of collecting data on dento-oral beliefs and practices of the rural aged as this would clear the picture of how far rural oral health awareness programs are succeeding, the aged being naturally more dependent on local infrastructure, compared to the youth.

The study showed that the use of "datoon" or tree twig chewing is still very popular in rural India, as an oral hygiene measure and though it is inferior to tooth-brushing, its massaging action makes it probably the next best option. Its disadvantages include gingival trauma and occlusal wear. [4] Previous studies have shown that simply brushing the teeth with a non-medicated tooth paste results in a 69% reduction of caries occurrence compared to not brushing at all. [6]

Nicotine consumption is a known etiological agent for oral hygiene problems and it has been previously recorded that chewing and smoking tobacco are integral to the Indian rural culture, where tobacco is primarily ingested as "Gutkha" (flavored tobacco) and "Gul manjan"(a dentifrice), and inhaled as "Bidi" (unfiltered tobacco wrapped in dried "tendu" leaf). [4],[5]

The study showed marked ignorance and lack of scientific dental awareness and high prevalence of tobacco habits and dental myths in the population, more marked in the older, less educated, and female subjects. The high prevalence of dental myths would prevent such a population from obtaining proper dental care even if it could be made available to them. The onus is on the dental community and the administrative machinery to strive for the following: (1) Dental awareness programs specially targeting the rural aged vis a vis their relative lack of mobility and mental rigidity; (2) Setting up subsidized dental care facilities close to rural populations; (3) Mobile dental clinics and dental camps.

Studies with large subject cohorts at multi-centric levels, which investigate the factors making dental education infusion difficult in rural areas are imperative in any country with a large rural populace, to ensure that the disparities between rural and urban areas keep decreasing. [7]


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