TORONTO, Canada, USA, May 13, 2014 - From their analysis of the primary dental care data of more than 2,500 children, researchers have found that only very few children in Canada had seen a dentist for an oral health assessment by the recommended age of 12 months.
They also found that especially children from low-income families and those with a higher intake of sugary drinks had not seen a dentist until the age of 5.
The study included 2,505 healthy Canadian girls and boys aged 0–5 who had received primary health care between September 2011 and January 2013.
The researchers found that about 38 percent of the children had not been to a dentist within their first 5 years of life. Only 1.9 percent had seen a dentist by the age of 2.
They also found that only 1 percent of the children had visited the dentist by the age of 1.
Financial barriers appeared to be relevant to the dental visiting patterns of children from low-income households in particular. Children from the lowest-income families in the study had never been to the dentist.
In addition, prolonged bottle use and the intake of sweetened drinks were associated with an increased probability of never having been to the dentist.
The researchers reported that the likelihood increased by 20 percent with each cup increase in the amount of sweetened drinks consumed daily.
The researchers concluded that the findings of the study highlight the importance of promoting early preventive dental care in the primary care setting.
"It is one thing for primary health care providers to be recommending preventive dental care but for many families this is unrealistic," said Dr. Jonathon Maguire, one of the study's authors and a pediatrician at the St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Dental Association recommend a routine oral health assessment by a qualified health care professional by 6 months of age.
Unlike in the U.S., dental care is not part of the Canadian universal health care system. It is primarily provided through private practices.
The study, titled "Factors Associated with Dental Care Utilization in Early Childhood," was published online on May 5 in the Pediatrics journal ahead of print. It was conducted on behalf of the TARGet Kids! initiative, a collaboration between the University of Toronto and a number of primary care physicians, that aims to collect longitudinal data on common health problems in urban Canadian children aged 0–5.