Lack of supervised brushing linked to childhood to caries

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Study links lack of supervised brushing in childhood to caries

A new study has found that more than half of the participants who had dental caries had not been supervised when brushing their teeth as children. (Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

Wed. 22 May 2024


FORT MYERS, Fla., US: Although many college students recognise the impact that lifestyle choices have on oral health, minority students often have limited access to dental health information and services and thus their oral health can be overlooked. Seeking to investigate the link between oral hygiene behaviours, oral health attitudes and oral health problems in minority undergraduate students, a recent study found that certain self-reported oral health issues had an impact on the participants’ quality of life and on their attitudes towards oral health. The findings indicate a need to enhance oral hygiene practices among minority students and to ensure that they regularly visit the dentist in order to reduce dental problems and improve their quality of life.

The study included approximately 150 students attending a state university in Florida who identified themselves as either Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American or Pacific Islander. In the study, the researchers collected information on the participants’ oral hygiene behaviours, such as brushing habits, dental visits and diet, as well as historical data on their oral hygiene habits as children. They then compared the participants’ responses with the occurrence of self-reported dental health problems.

According to the findings, more than 40% of the participants reported untreated dental caries or gingival bleeding. Additionally, 63% of those who reported dental caries said they had experienced caries in adolescence. A further 59.3% of the students with caries and 56.0% of those with gingival bleeding had not been supervised when brushing their teeth as children.

The researchers found that poor oral health affected the participants’ quality of life. Namely, gingival bleeding was associated with difficulty chewing, pain, impaired speech, and school and work absences. Similarly, dental caries was linked with all of the aforementioned factors as well as with xerostomia, disturbed sleep and the avoidance of smiling.

It was also found that diet during childhood was linked to caries prevalence in adulthood. More than a third of the participants with caries (39%) reported a high consumption of sweets in childhood. After enquiring into participants’ brushing habits, the researchers found that those who brushed for 1 minute or less were more likely to report gingival bleeding.

The researchers also found disparities among various ethnic groups. For example, only 9% of the Hispanic students reported untreated dental caries, whereas the proportion was much higher for Black students, at 32%. Additionally, Hispanic and Black adolescents were found to be more likely to have multiple missing teeth and untreated caries.

Given the findings, the study called for increased access to oral health education and preventive care for minority students. “Improving oral health education resources for minorities and free preventative care beginning in adolescence may help improve oral health practices among minorities over their lifetime,” the authors wrote. They then concluded: “Furthering education on the importance of preventative oral care and providing financial equality of dental care would ideally improve oral health among minority populations.”

Since the study relied on self-reporting, the researchers cautioned that there was a potential for bias, as some students might have been unable to recall certain past events accurately.

The study, titled “Examining oral hygiene behaviors, oral health-related quality of life, and attitudes toward oral health among minority students”, was published online on 13 May 2024 in Cureus.

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