Children Likelier to See Dentist If Parents Have Regular Visits

Parents who visit the dentist regularly are more likely to take their children to the dentist, too.

A new study shows that 77 percent of children and 64 percent of parents had seen a dentist in the previous year. About 86 percent of children whose parents had a dental visit during the preceding year had a dental exam, compared to about 63 percent of the children whose parents had not seen a dentist.

The data is from a recent National Health Interview Study of 6,107 children age 2 to 17 and their parents. The findings show that programs that promote children's oral health also should target their parents, said the study's author, Inyang Isong, M.D., a pediatrician and research fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy.

About 76 percent of parents in the study were employed and had health insurance. However, financial barriers still kept some of those families from seeing a dentist. Some parents delayed dental care due to cost, and 27 percent of their children also had care deferred.

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, especially among minority children and those from lower-income families, thus "strategies to promote oral health should focus on the whole family," said Dr. Isong.

What's more, many people are unaware of the important role dental care plays in children's overall health, according to the ADA in a National Children's Dental Health Month news release.

The ADA recommends that parents take action early to ensure the health of their children's teeth because attitudes and habits established at an early age are critical in maintaining good oral health throughout life.

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