Media Contact: Margarita Wagerson

Many young children off to poor start with dental health

Dental visits recommended to begin by age 1, but new poll shows most children ages 1-2 have not received appropriate care

Photo Date: October 24, 2011

 

Although child health experts recommend that children begin oral health care by age 1 or when their first teeth emerge, a new report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health shows that most children ages 1-2 have not yet started seeing a dentist.

In May 2011, the National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents of children ages 1-5 about dental health care for young children. The poll found that only 23% of 1-year-olds had been to the dentist and only 44% of 2-year-olds had been to the dentist.

“Dental problems such as early childhood caries (cavities in the baby teeth) are the leading cause of chronic disease for young children,” says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., Associate Director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the University of Michigan. “Most dental problems can be prevented through good oral health care.”

Parents may not be aware of recommendations for early dental health care and finding a dentist who will see young children – especially those covered by Medicaid – is a long standing problem in some communities. To address these issues, pediatricians and health care providers are now seen as important partners in oral health and are encouraged to discuss oral health during well-child visits.

“Well-child visits are critical to making sure that parents understand their role in preventing dental problems, such as how to clean the child’s baby teeth and the importance of avoiding sugary beverages and bottles in the crib,” says Clark. “Well-child visits are also a key opportunity for a health professional to examine the child’s baby teeth and make sure that children with early signs of decay are strongly encouraged to see a dentist.”

However, when parents of 1-2 year olds were asked about dental health activities that occurred at their child’s most recent well-child visit, less than half of parents said their health care providers talked to them about cleaning the teeth or taking their child to the dentist and 1 in 3 children did not have their teeth examined at all by their health care provider.

“We know that not all children will see a dentist at age 1, but on the other hand, almost all children have well-child visits with a pediatrician or other health care provider,” Clark continues. “The results of this poll indicate that we need to improve the way oral health issues are addressed during well-child visits so that parents fully understand the need for good oral health care.”

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health: 

Website: www.med.umich.edu/mott/npch

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mottnpch

Twitter: @MottNPCH

Additional resources include:

American Academy of Pediatrics: http://aap.org/
American Dental Association: http://www.ada.org/2057.aspx
UofMHealth.org: http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw144414#hw144452

Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health – based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System – is designed to measure major health care issues and trends for U.S. children.

Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc. (KN), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.  The survey was administered in May 2011 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents age 18 or older with a child age 1 to 5 (n=571), from the KN standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 54 percent among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 5 to 11 percentage points.

To learn more about Knowledge Networks, visit www.knowledgenetworks.com.

Findings from the U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.

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