A survey of U.S. expectant mothers, mothers and primary caregivers released recently reveals that nearly 70 percent of children begin receiving dental care two years later than the age recommended by pediatric dental experts.
On average, children first visit a dentist at age three. Dental experts recommend that initial visits occur between the ages of six months and one year, or when the first tooth appears.
"Early visits are crucial in assessing diet and feeding patterns that may contribute to tooth decay, determining if such preventive measures as fluoride treatments are required and teaching parents to better understand and care for their child's teeth and gums," said John S. Rutkauskas, D.D.S., M.B.A., executive director of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) Foundation.
Gallup & Robinson conducted the "Oral-B/AAPD Foundation Checkup on Children's Oral Care" study in conjunction with the AAPD Foundation's "Good Health Starts Here" campaign. The two organizations conducted a similar study in 1996.
A comparison with the findings of the earlier study reveals that today's parents are more informed and involved in their children's oral care routine. For example, in 1996, only one-third of parents were aware that their child's oral care routine should begin early and that they should regularly clean their child's gums before the child even has teeth. By contrast, in 2002, over half of parents clean their child's gums.
"This study is important to the AAPD in helping us discover ways in which to educate parents and children about proper oral care," explained Dr. Rutkauskas. "The results will allow us to examine the current oral care routines of children and develop materials that will fit parents' informational needs."
"Helping children and adults have healthy teeth for life is Oral-B's mission," said Bruce Cleverly, president of Gillette Oral Care, explaining Oral-B's sponsorship of the study. "We believe that good oral health begins with informed parents. By understanding parental attitudes, Oral-B can contribute both to the success of pediatric dental professionals in treating children and to the development of oral care products that meet a child's needs."
A total of 1,000 households with expectant mothers and mothers of children, newborn through 12 years old, were surveyed by telephone in January 2002.