By Paula Midori Castelo and Darlle Santos Araujo
In short, what is the study about?
It consisted of a cross-sectional study in which we investigated the association between excess weight and quality of life, symptoms of anxiety, caries experience and socioeconomic factors in a representative urban sample of Brazilian children to analyze the quality of life of obese children of different socioeconomic status, which determines the need for policies and health education in schools.
What would be the most important take-home messages from the study?
Obesity is a multifactorial complex condition, in which risk factors related to many areas such as psychology, dentistry, medicine, and nutrition are involved. In addition, socioeconomic factors such as educational level and income may influence habits and determine the health status of those children.
How are these findings important in practice?
In this study, children from public schools (low income) with overweight/obesity did not differ from normal-weight ones in terms of quality of life, symptoms of anxiety and caries experience, but those from families with higher ownership of goods and services presented greater chances of being overweight. As in Brazil, the trend of a high prevalence of overweight and obesity has been observed over the years, these findings highlight the need for public policies and strategies to ensure health education, increasing individual’s knowledge or influencing their attitudes to change this scenario.
As oral health and obesity may share some risk factors, for example, diet (sugar), age, and socioeconomic status, Dentists should act in an integrated manner with the objective of impacting positively the patients’ oral health and well-being. So, it is important to understand the needs, plan properly and provide advice and instruction on taking care of oral health depending on their habits, environment, and psychological status, thus establishing a healthcare practice and changes of families’ habits and lifestyle. The results emphasize the need of integral attention and continued health programs to identify and limit risk factors for both conditions.
What other studies can be recommended to further an understanding/application of the findings?
Future research should closely evaluate the effects of diet and obesity on oral health in different age and socioeconomic groups in a longitudinal design. Each group has its own social and behavioral characteristics that should be investigated, helping the establishment of strategies with a greater chance of success.
* The co-author, Darlle Santos Araujo is a Doctor of Dental Surgery, Public Health Specialist, and Ph.D. candidate at the Dept. Pediatric Dentistry, Piracicaba Dental School (UNICAMP).