While 97% of parents of children ages five and under, with dental insurance, would rate their child’s oral health as excellent or good, many may actually be overly optimistic. A MetLife Study released today reveals many parents are not following recommended guidelines for brushing, flossing, and other habits for optimal pediatric oral health. Nearly a quarter of surveyed parents, 23%, have been told by a dentist or hygienist that their child was at risk for tooth decay.
The study is entitled Parental Oral Health Literacy: Equipping Parents with Important Information about Children’s Oral Health. A copy can be downloaded here.
About half (47%) of the parents surveyed have not spoken to their pediatrician about their child’s teeth and may not be making the connection between their child’s oral health and their overall health. “According to the office of the Surgeon General, tooth decay is the single most common childhood disease—five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Parents should be speaking to their pediatricians to learn more about how their child’s oral health can affect their overall health,” said Dr. David Guarrera, DDS, vice president, MetLife Dental Products. “With the help of their dentist, parents can take a few simple steps to introduce healthy oral hygiene habits at an early age and to make sure their children’s teeth are protected.”
According to the study, 42% of respondents report that their child’s teeth or gums are brushed once a day or less, and nearly half, 45%, say their child’s teeth are never flossed.
“Children should be introduced to the concept of teeth cleaning and brushing at an early age. Once a tooth appears, parents should brush children’s teeth twice a day with a child’s toothbrush and water,” notes Dr. Guarrera. “According to the American Dental Association, parents should start using floss on their children’s teeth as soon as any two teeth touch, to remove plaque where a toothbrush cannot reach.”
Over half of parents, 60%, say their kids are eating sugary foods at least once a day. Eating sugary foods can cause damaging acids to form in the mouth. These acids can affect teeth for at least 20 minutes before they are neutralized and chewy sweets stick to the surface of the teeth, spending more time in the mouth and potentially causing more damage. Because of this, parents should consider how often their children are eating sugary snacks and the type of snacks their children are consuming. Also, if parents cannot brush their child’s teeth after eating a sugary snack, it is very important to rinse at the very least.