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Delta Dental finds children need to brush more often

Posted on June 23, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., (June 20, 2012) — A recent study of American children’s oral health, conducted on behalf of Delta Dental finds that poor and infrequent brushing may be the biggest obstacle in keeping children from good oral health.1

According to the study, nearly two out of five Americans report their child’s overall health is excellent; however, 35 percent of those surveyed admit their child brushes less than twice per day. Parents recognize this frequency as “not enough,” despite the fact that 96 percent of those surveyed with children up to age 6 say they supervise or assist with brushing.

Among those who rate their child’s oral health as less than excellent, only 56 percent say their child brushes for at least two minutes, the amount of brushing time recommended by dentists.

While the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry recommends daily flossing, 48 percent of survey respondents said their child’s teeth have never been flossed, while 22 percent reporting their child’s teeth are flossed daily.

“There’s clearly a need for more frequent and better education to teach practices that will ensure lifelong oral health,” said Dr. Jesus Galvan, chief dental officer of Delta Dental of New Mexico. “Begin with your dentist. Ask them to share best practices that you can bring home with you. Habits are formed through continuous activity. The more time you spend teaching and developing good dental habits, the more likely they are to stick.”

Getting small children to brush properly can be a challenge. Dr. Galvan offers some ideas that can help:

  • Trade places: Tired of prying your way in whenever it's time to brush those little teeth? Why not reverse roles and let the child brush your teeth? It’s fun for them and shows them the right way to brush. Just don’t share a toothbrush. Sharing a toothbrush may result in an exchange of microorganisms and an increased risk of infections.

  • Fun toothbrush holder/toothbrush: Another way to get children brushing is by utilizing fun oral health devices like robot, tree or animal-shaped toothbrush holders that stick to walls. Kids like the characters and the holder provides a sanitary storage spot for their toothbrushes and toothpaste. Remember to apply just a small dab of toothpaste to the brush since the amount of fluoride in children’s toothpaste is still adult strength.

  • Take turns: Set a timer and have the child brush for one minute. Then reset the timer and brush their teeth for the final minute.

  • Call in reinforcements: If children stubbornly neglect to brush or floss, maybe it's time to change the messenger. Call the dental office before the next checkup and let them know what's going on. Kids might heed the same motivational message if it comes from a third party, especially the dentist.

“Instilling good dental habits begins at an early age,” said Galvan. Children will mimic adult’s behavior. If a parent practices good oral habits beginning with brushing and flossing, children will recognize it and do the same. Those good habits will continue with them into adulthood.”

About Delta Dental of New Mexico

Delta Dental of New Mexico, with its affiliates in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee collectively are among the largest dental plan administrators in the nation. In 2011, the enterprise paid out $2.2 billion for dental treatment for 8.6 million enrollees. Offices are located in Albuquerque, N.M.; Indianapolis and Greenwood, Ind.; Louisville, Ky.; Okemos and Farmington Hills, Mich.; Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C.; Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; and Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn.

1 Morpace Inc. conducted the 2011 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted by email nationally with 907 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.25 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.