A recent study conducted at the Case Western Reserve University Dental School revealed that the availability of dental insurance, sealants and fluoride treatments may not guarantee the prevention of cavities in kids under 14. In this longitudinal study, it was found that a mother’s emotional health and education during a child’s growing years influenced their oral health.
Interestingly, when mothers struggled with their overall emotional health, including access to coping skills or social support while their children were between 3 and 8, their children had a statistically significant higher rate of oral health problems by age 14. I find it fascinating that the correlation was with the mothers, not the fathers. Despite evolving gender roles, mothers are still the primary caregivers for our kids.
The Progression of the Longitudinal Study
For this particular study researchers began with teenagers and gathered data working backwards to the age of 3 to obtain information and ascertain what factors influenced their oral health outcomes. Both mothers and caregivers were interviewed for the study as well. From dental examinations of 224 adolescent participants, they gathered health and medical information from their children and their mothers to assess the child’s wellbeing at the age of 3, 8 and 14. Researchers also counted the number of decayed, filled or missing permanent teeth including assessing the dental plaque. Mothers were asked to complete a questionnaire about preventative treatments, sugar and soft drink consumption, and the frequency of dental visits.
Social Support and Coping Skills Can Help
What the data revealed was that access to insurance and proper treatments did not always ensure the prevention of cavities. Researchers have come to understand that home and social environments may play a bigger part in a child’s developmental years than first believed. While speaking to children about proper dental hygiene is important, so are a mother’s ability to cope with stress and develop the social networks that can help with providing for her children’s needs as well as her own. The study revealed that mothers with higher education, healthy emotional states and knowledge about oral healthcare were more likely to have children with fewer cavities.
The lesson is that for our children to have healthy teeth and mouths it is also important that we as parents maintain our own emotional, psychological as well as physical health and live balanced lives with effective skills to cope with inevitable stress. By taking care of ourselves, caregivers can ensure that their children also receive the oral health care they need as well. In today’s hectic pace, it’s easy to overlook the impact of these areas on our kids, but good oral health means children get a healthy start.
Call us at 248-356-8790 at Dr. Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD, PC if there is anything we can do to help!
Until next time,
Dr. Mark W. Langberg