Bulletin of the World Health Organization

A sociodental approach to assessing children’s oral health needs: integrating an oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) measure into oral health service planning

Sudaduang Gherunpong, Aubrey Sheiham, & Georgios Tsakos



We adopted a sociodental approach to assess the real dental needs of Thai primary school children, and integrated an oral health-related quality of life measure (OHRQoL) into oral health service planning. We then compared the results of this sociodental assessment with standard estimates of a child’s oral health needs.


We developed a new model of sociodental needs assessment and used it to assess the level of impact that various oral health conditions have on the everyday lives of school children. We then carried out a cross sectional study of all grade-6 children (11–12 years old) in Suphan-buri Province, Thailand. We examined the sample ( n = 1034) to assess the children’s oral health and then we interviewed each child individually to assess what impact any dental conditions he or she may have on their quality of life. This assessment was done using an OHRQoL indicator, the Child Oral Impacts on Daily Performances index (child-OIDP). We integrated the results obtained using this indicator with those estimates obtained using more traditional, standard clinical methods, in order to generate a clearer picture of exactly which non-progressive dental conditions really needed treatment. These results take into account the impact those conditions have on the overall well-being of children and their ability to function normally and unimpeded. We were then able to prioritize their dental needs according to the severity of disruption caused in their daily lives.


Using standard or “normative” estimates of dental health care needs, the children’s need was 98.8%. This level of need decreased significantly to 39.5% when adopting the sociodental approach ( P <0.001). Overall, per 100 children with a standard or normative need for dental treatment, only 40 had a sociodental need for treatment when taking into account the impact their condition has on their everyday lives. Children thus identified as requiring treatment were further categorized according to the severity of impact their condition had: 7.2% had severe, 10.3% moderate and 22.0% had minor impacts on OHRQoL.


There was a marked difference between the standard normative and the sociodental needs assessment approach, with the latter approach showing a 60% lower assessment of dental health care needs in Thai 11–12-year-old children. Different levels of “impacts” on daily life can be used to prioritize children with needs.