Parental perceptions of their preschool-aged children’s oral health

BACKGROUND: Parents have an important role in making decisions about their children’s oral health. The purpose of the authors’ study was to determine parental perceptions of their children’s oral health status and factors correlated with these perceptions of health.

METHODS: The authors analyzed data for 3,424 children (2-5 years of age) from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They based the dependent variable on a question asked of primary caregivers: “How would you describe the condition of [child’s name]’s natural teeth?” Explanatory variables included demographic variables, dental visits, perception of child’s general health, need for dental care and presence of tooth caries.

RESULTS: Eighty-nine percent of parents rated their child’s oral health as excellent, very good or good, and 11 percent rated it as fair or poor (mean = 2.7 on a five-point scale, with 1 being excellent and 5 being poor). Tooth caries, perceived need for dental cleaning and treatment, lower income and poorer general health perceptions were associated with poorer parental ratings.

CONCLUSIONS: Actual disease and perceived need are associated significantly with parents’ perceptions of their children’s oral health.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Understanding parents’ perceptions of their children’s oral health and factors that motivate these perceptions can help dentistry overcome barriers that parents encounter in accessing dental care for their children.

Talekar BS, Rozier RG, Slade GD, Ennett ST.

J Am Dent Assoc. 2005 Mar;136(3):364-72; quiz 381.

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