Thursday, November 4, 2021

By Kihara E.N (University of Nairobi), Karanja S.M (Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology),Wanzala P (Kenya Medical Research Institute), Wagaiyu E.G (University of Nairobi)

Study shows courts of law and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government as the main entities that refer patients to undergo dental age assessment methods with the aim of determining their age.

According to the study by Dr. Eunice Kihara, a lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Dental Sciences, the highest demand for dental age assessment was from Northern Kenya.

The study indicates that this method could be of great importance when dealing with such cases like identification documents challenge and legal, social, and civil registration issues.

Below is an abstract of the research titled: Assessing utilization of age assessment services and sources of referral in public health facilities in Kenya



The need for age assessment remains relevant even in the current times due to unregistered births, a global rise in social, political and security conflicts that lead to the making of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, unidentified victims of mass disasters and law breakers. In particular, the dentists play a significant role in age assessment in Kenya. The decision made by the age assessors has potential to influence the judgement made by those who refer for the assessment which in turn plays a role in either protecting or violating pertinent human rights. In order to establish the need for collaboration, there is need to assess the main sources of referral and corresponding number of patients referred for age assessment in dental facilities. 


This was a cross-sectional study in which data were collected from a 5-year (2014-2018) record of dental patients and from a convenience sample of 316 patients who visited for age assessment in 2019-2020. Variables included gender, estimated age and exact sources of referral for age assessment. The study centers were eight (8) level 5 County hospitals which were selected through stratified and simple random sampling.


From the 8 study centers, the proportion of patients who visited the dental facilities from 2014 -2018 for age assessment were 12,738 (5.72%). Almost an equal number of females (6,410, 50.32%) and males (6,328, 49.68%) were recorded. Nearly half of the patients requiring age estimation were from the North Eastern region (5,944, 46.66%) while the lowest cases were found in the Central region (315, 2.47%).

Data was also collected from a sample of 316 patients who visited for age assessment. The females and males were 130 (41.1%) and 186 (58.9%) respectively.  Majority (267, 84.49%) of the sampled patients were referred by the court of law, other sources included civil registration offices for identification documents (national identity card, birth certificate and Passport) (47, 14.87%), school admission (1, 0.32%) and from a private caregiver (1, 0.32%). Among those who required identification documents were mainly from North Eastern regions (27, 57.45%), Coast (15, 31.91%) and Nairobi (5, 10.67%).


A substantial number of patients were referred for age assessment to the public dental facilities across Kenya. The highest demand was noted in the Northern region of Kenya. The main sources of referral were the Courts of law and the Ministry of Interior and coordination of National Government.