CHAPEL HILL, N.C., USA, April 28, 2014 - Early preventive dental visits are essential for a child's oral health. However, there are few studies about how children enter the dental care system.
The study was based on the data of about 1,000 caregiver–child dyads who were originally enrolled in the Carolina Oral Health Literacy study during 2007/2008.
The children had no dental visits before enrollment.
Assessing oral health status, health literacy, dental neglect, and access to care barriers in the study population, the researchers found that almost 40 percent of the children had not visited the dentist during the two-year period taken into consideration. On average, these children were 16 months old on entering the dental care system.
Overall, children with reported oral health problems at baseline were more likely to enter the dental care system compared with children with better oral health.
However, they were also more likely to require emergency care. According to the study, 13 percent of the children had their first dental visit owing to an emergency.
The researchers also found that the children of caregivers who neglected their own oral health were more likely not to enter the dental care system.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry states that tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma. An estimated 5 percent of children under the age of 6, roughly 300,000 U.S. children, experience significant levels of early childhood caries.
An additional 15 percent, roughly 1.5 million, experience lesser levels of the disease, which has also been associated with insufficient physical development, loss of school days and diminished ability to learn.
The current study, titled "Influence of Caregivers and Children's Entry Into the Dental Care System," was published online on April 21 in the Pediatrics journal ahead of print.