Study says caregivers' education level affects children's oral health

Headline suggestion: Study says caregivers' education level affects children's oral health

Research published in March 2015 has revealed that caregivers' education influences their and their children's oral health behavior. The study, "Caregiver's Education Level and Children Dental Caries in African Americans: A Path Analytic Study," was a coproduction of dental researchers at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Washington. It was published in the dental journal Caries Research.

During the month of September from 2007 to 2009, 423 low-income African American children (51 percent female, 49 percent male) and their caregivers were recruited for the study. Through the use of dental examinations for the children and questionnaires for the caregivers, the article showed that caregivers who completed high school were 1.76 times more likely to visit a dentist than those who did not graduate. Expanding on that, the children of caregivers who finished high school were nearly six times more likely to maintain routine dental visits. The children who did not have educated caregivers were much more likely to have decaying teeth, and children who visited the dentist regularly had close to one-fourth as many cavities as those who did not.

The authors admit that the study has flaws, such as the research being limited to one urban area, but the large sample size still makes the data valuable, they said.

To improve oral health in low-income communities, the authors suggest focusing on behavioral changes as opposed to literature and instructions. If a caregiver sustains good oral health habits, it will amend the effects of less education.

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