Pediatric dentistry is growing in popularity as more and more studies demonstrate the importance of dental hygiene at a young age. In addition, oral hygiene is gaining the recognition that dentists have long been claiming: oral hygiene can be a signifying factor of one’s overall internal health. Unhealthy gums can be indicators of internal health problems such as heart disease.
Children’s dental health is becoming all the more important as the links between child oral hygiene and overall health become more apparent. Studies are increasingly demonstrating the importance of dental hygiene in early childhood. Instigating good oral hygiene habits in children increases the likelihood they have healthy habits in adulthood. Furthermore, children often acquire the health habits of their caregivers, stressing the need for proper oral hygiene among caregivers.
The Journal of Dental Research published a study this month on the effects of dental literacy in female caregivers with oral hygiene in children. Researchers studied the literacy levels of 1,273 caregivers and the hygiene habits imposed on their infants. As the researchers expected, lower literacy levels in caregivers carried an association with poor oral hygiene in infants.
Researchers used a systematic series of questions to evaluate oral health knowledge and oral health literacy. Based on a scale of 0 to 6, caregivers were rated on their knowledge and literacy. Oral hygiene among infants was measured from a questionnaire ranging from frequency of teeth brushing to dietary habits in the infants.
“We found higher literacy to be associated with better reported oral health status, independent of knowledge and other covariates, including race, education, age, and number of children.”
Referring to the results as a “seminal discovery,” the report advocates government intervention to improve oral literacy levels. “It is impossible to change age or race, and very challenging to change education; however, it may be possible, with the right intervention, to enhance oral health literacy in a population of caregivers such as the one under study here,” the report claims.
Researchers believe the results are significant in propagating new efforts in oral hygiene literacy. “These findings suggest that oral health literacy is a fundamental dimension that confers oral health impacts above and beyond education and socio-demographic characteristics. This is a seminal discovery, because it may open the door for a possible intervention.
Some of the conclusions drawn from the study help to raise awareness of the importance of dental hygiene at an early age. One of the habits the report studied was the use of a baby bottle before sleeping, which is a leading cause of tooth decay in children. Tooth decay occurs when build ups of plague lay on the teeth or from prolonged exposure to sugary liquids. Tooth decay in children often leads to the need for more serious dental treatments in adulthood, such as dental fillings or root canals.
Children who acquire healthy hygiene habits at a younger age are more likely to avoid common problems such as gum disease.
Regardless of your age, it’s never too late to improve dental habits. After all, the best way to avoid trips to the dentist is to practice good dental hygiene.
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