CDC Study: Children’s Smiles Healthier than Ever submitted

iStock_000008922315SmallParents now have another reason to be proud of their kids. According to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the oral health of children has improved as the number of preventative dentist visits increased over the last decade. 

The research was led by Dr. Mahua Mandal of the College of Dental Medicine and Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York, who compared dental results of American children in 2003 with those from the years 2011 and 2012. While individual studies have been previously carried out, this is the first data to systematically examine kids’ oral health outcomes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“Oral health represents the largest unmet health care need for children, and geographic variations in children’s receipt of oral health services have been noted,” Mandal explained to Daily RX.

This data was collected via telephone surveys conducted by the CDC, accounting for a total of 187,065 children. In the study, the parents were asked whether or not their children had visited a dentist in the past year for preventive care, such as check-ups and dental cleanings. They also categorized the condition of their kids’ teeth as either excellent, very good, fair or poor.

The results are in
Mandal and colleagues discovered that the rate of children who were reported to have excellent or very good oral health increased from 68 percent in 2003 to 72 percent in 2011/2012. Meanwhile, the amount of preventive dental visits rose from 72 percent in 2003 to 77 percent in 2011/2012. In 26 states, the prevalence of youngsters with excellent or very good oral health status jumped, with Utah climbing 10 percent within the decade – the most of any state. Missouri showed the least significant improvement. Unsurprisingly, the most substantial advances were seen among children with health insurance and household incomes above the federal poverty line.

Certainly, taking into account the potential response bias of parents, this data is not foolproof. However, it does give us a good indication that children’s smiles are continuing down a healthier path.

“Preventive oral care is important to start at a young age for children,” Dr. Dana Fort, who runs Atlagic Dental in Illinois, told dailyRx News. “It establishes healthy habits which are more likely to continue on into adulthood. By addressing small problems early, poor oral health behavior can be corrected, and further disease avoided.”

Possible reasons for improvement
What’s to thank for the uptick in children’s healthy teeth? Perhaps less soda drinking and a slight decrease in snacking on sweets, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. U.S. adolescents have started to work out more, watch less TV and eat more fruits and vegetables, all steps that’ll put a smile on your dentist’s face. As more parents are beginning to understand the role of oral health in overall well-being, the condition of gums and teeth show promising improvements. While it’s the kids who benefit, parents certainly deserve a pat on the back for informing their children’s dental hygiene decisions.

Offensive versus defensive
Oftentimes, prevention is the best cure. Staying on top of your oral hygiene habits and visiting the dentist twice a year for regular check-ups can help ensure you help fend off teeth problems before they start. In this case, offense wins games. And with the holidays around the corner, it’s wise to buckle down the hatches, brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day and schedule an appointment to see your dentist.

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