March 20 is World Oral Health Day, according to the FDI World Dental Federation, and the group notes that many parents need to do a better job of caring for their children’s oral health. It recently conducted a survey in across 10 countries and found that only 13% of parents with children under the age of 18 took their child to the dentist before their first birthday.
“It’s worrying to learn that most children are not getting a dental checkup at the recommended age,” said Kathryn Kell, DDS, FDI president.
Many parents first took their child to the dentist between the ages of 1 and 3 years (24%) or between 4 and 6 (22%), while 20% reported never taking their child for a dental checkup at all. Also, 50% of the parents who had taken their child to the dentist said that they did so to get a regular checkup.
While checkups were the most frequent reason for visits in the United Kingdom (82%), Sweden (77%), Argentina (65%), France (63%), the United States (63%), Australia (56%), and China (34%), the most reported response for going to the dentist in Egypt, the Philippines, and Morocco was pain or discomfort in the child’s mouth (56%, 43%, and 38%, respectively).
The study also found that 43% of parents with children age 18 and under personally ensured their child’s teeth were brushed before bedtime, while 40% supervised their child’s toothbrushing twice a day, and 38% limited sugary foods and drinks to avoid oral diseases. Only 26% personally cleaned their child’s teeth once their first tooth erupted, though, and only 8% encouraged their child to wear a mouthguard while playing sports.
“Good oral health habits start early. Parents should visit the dentist after their child’s first tooth starts erupting as a preventive measure to avoid risk of developing early childhood caries. Oral diseases can impact every aspect of life and are associated with many general health conditions,” Kell said.
“This World Oral Health Day, we want people to make the connection between their oral health and general health and understand the impact that one has on the other. Knowing how to protect your mouth and body at all ages contributes to a better quality of life,” Kell said.