Caries linked to lack of supervised brushing in childhood, study says

Caries linked to lack of supervised brushing in childhood, study says

A new study found that more than half of participants who had dental caries were not supervised when brushing their teeth as children.

Published on 13 May in Cureus, the study investigated the link between oral hygiene behaviours and attitudes and oral health problems in minority undergraduate students.

Approximately 150 students were surveyed, all of whom identified as Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or Pacific Islander.

The survey collected information on oral hygiene behaviours such as brushing habits, dental attendance and diet. Historical data was also collected on the students’ oral hygiene habits as children. These answers were then compared to the prevalence of self-reported dental health problems to identify associations.

More than 40% of the participants reported untreated dental caries or bleeding gums. Six in 10 (63%) of those who reported dental caries had experienced caries in adolescence. A further 59.3% of the students with caries had not been supervised when brushing their teeth as children. Around 56% of those with bleeding gums also did not report supervised toothbrushing.

Childhood diet was also found to be related to adult caries prevalence. Four in 10 (39%) participants with caries said they consumed sweets very often as a child. Another significant factor was the length of time that the students spent brushing their teeth. Participants who brushed for one minute or less were more likely to report bleeding gums.

Improving oral health education

The study also revealed the negative impact of poor oral health on the participants’ quality of life. Bleeding gums were associated with difficulty chewing, pain, affected speech and days missed at school or work. Dental caries was also linked to these factors, as well as dry mouth, affected sleep and avoiding smiling.

Disparities between the different ethnic groups considered within the study were observed by the authors. While 9% of the Hispanic students reported untreated dental caries, the proportion was much higher for Black students at 32%. The study says that Hispanic and Black adolescents are more likely to experience multiple missing teeth and untreated decay.

The authors of the study noted that its reliance on self-reporting could potentially lead to bias. For example, participants may be unable to recall past events accurately. However they said that it does highlight the pain that many minority students are experiencing due to poor oral health.

The study calls for greater access to oral health education and preventive care for minority students. It says: ‘Improving oral health education resources for minorities and free preventative care beginning in adolescence may help improve oral health practices among minorities over their lifetime.

‘Furthering education on the importance of preventative oral care and providing financial equality of dental care would ideally improve oral health among minority populations.’

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