A recent study at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine indicates that a caregiver’s emotional health, education level and general knowledge are key factors in determining the oral health of a child later in life.
Dr. James A. Wells of South Charlotte Dentistry says, “This may help us understand ways to prevent oral health problems in teens and young adults.”
Researchers conducting the study examined some of the factors of teen oral health by tracing child’s early year environments. Researchers interviewed teens about their experiences beginning by age 3 to determine what factors in the teen’s history may played a role in current oral health. While researchers primarily interviewed the teens about mothers, other primary caregivers were considered. Mothers were also interviewed.
The 11-year study began with participants at age three. The participants were then regularly interviewed and examined until age 14. The findings included data on overall health and oral health of both the mothers and children over the course of the study.
The analysis included examination of the number of decayed, filled, or missing permanent teeth in the children by the age of fourteen. The teens were also assessed for their level of dental plaque which can be a sign of improper oral hygiene.
The mothers were tested on knowledge of oral hygiene topics such as impact of sugar consumption, sealants and mouthwashes, access to dentist care, and frequency of dental visits. The researchers found that even those children who had ample access to oral health treatments, dental care, mouthwashes, dental insurance, and fluoride care did not necessarily show a correlated decrease in the number of cavities.
The factors researchers found most important when determining oral health of the children was the mother or primary caregiver’s emotional health, education level, and knowledge when the children were ages three and eight. Children whose mothers had any difficulties in any of those three areas were more likely to experience poor oral hygiene at fourteen.
Suchitra Nelson, lead researcher on the project, said “We can’t ignore the environments of these children. It isn’t enough to tell children to brush and floss, they need more – and particularly from their caregivers.”
“We need interventions to help some moms get on track early in their children’s lives,” she added.
“One of the best things a mother or primary caregiver can do to help his or her child have better oral health later in life is to become educated about oral health issues,” says Dr. Wells. “Parents and caregivers should be knowledgeable in the proper techniques of brushing and flossing, and educate themselves about the importance of dental care.”