Int J Paediatr Dent. 1997 Mar; 7(1): 19-24.
Tooth bud extraction and rubbing of herbs by traditional healers in Tanzania: prevalence, and sociological and environmental factors influencing the practices.
Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, Faculty of Dentistry, Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The practice by traditional healers in Tanzania of extracting tooth buds or of rubbing herbs on to the gingivae of young children to cure fevers and diarrhoea has been known for many years. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of these practices in different regions of Tanzania and to identify sociological and environmental factors influencing belief in their efficacy. A total of 1052 children were examined for missing primary teeth, or scars or wounds on the gingivae, resulting from tooth bud extraction. In addition, 268 parents of children who had received treatment from a traditional healer were interviewed to identify factors that led them to go to a traditional healer. The prevalence of tooth bud extraction in villages in which tooth bud extraction was first reported in the early 1980s was 0.5%, and in villages in which the practice was only recently reported it was 60%; the prevalence of rubbing herbs was 32% and 0.4%, respectively. Persistent fevers and diarrhoea were the major symptoms which led parents to go to a traditional healer. However, 60% of the parents had taken their child to a hospital before going to a healer; 72% of these had attended at least three times but only 5.5% reported that the treatment given in the hospital cured the condition. It is recommended that intensive health education on the causes, treatment and prevention of fevers and diarrhoea should be instituted, in conjunction with effective management of these conditions in hospital facilities.