Children’s Oral Health Linked to Mom’s Well-being
Teaching children to brush and floss may not be all that’s needed to ensure their dental health. A 2012 study suggests that oral health at age 14 is directly related to a primary caregiver’s emotional health, knowledge and education level.
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Health followed a group of 224 children, born with both normal and low birth weights. They tracked the children throughout the years, examining the amount of tooth decay and missing teeth they had by age 14. They also gave the children’s mothers (the primary caregiver in all cases) surveys to track dental visits and access to dental care and insurance, sealants, fluoride treatments and sugar consumption. According to the study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, regardless of all these factors (which obviously appear likely to affect dental health), having healthy teeth had less to do with the dental care and more to do with the mother’s overall emotional state and knowledge about nutrition and health.
It is important to remember that this is one small study and that it simply suggests a link, not an explanation. Since three factors (emotional health, educational level and knowledge) played into the findings, it’s hard to know which one really confers the most benefit. What we can take away from this research is that oral health, and most likely health in general, is affected by a child’s environment.
What can parents do with this knowledge? There is no point in dwelling on the past, and there is certainly no reason to blame yourself if your child has had dental problems. But perhaps adults can learn that staying positive and conscientious about taking care of ourselves has a direct impact on our offspring.
Many parents worry so much about their children that they forget to pay attention to their own well-being. This research could be used to justify putting your own happiness and health at the top of your priority list to set a good example for your children—and perhaps give them an extra edge in protecting their oral health in the future.
If you have questions regarding your child's oral heath, click here to schedule an appointment at KiDDS Dental. Or give us a call at (509)-891-7070.