Our Patients’ Healthy Teeth is №1 Priority

A new study is calling on dental teams to alert parents to the oral health risk of sharing spoons with toddlers at mealtimes. It coincides with the latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre that show nearly 26,000 children, aged five to nine, were admitted to hospital in England in 2013-14 with tooth decay. This has increased by 14% since 2011 – a ‘crisis point’ according to the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty. Now dental therapists are warning that children’s oral health must begin at home, with parents and caregivers given a comprehensive education if preventive measures are to be successful. They say that the first port of call should be expectant mothers. The original study investigated how health behaviours related to the potential transmission of oral bacteria from mother to child. Acknowledging that health behaviours play a major role in the prevention of the most common oral diseases, it suggested a need within in patient health education for more emphasis on how to prevent bacterial transmission from caregiver to child during feeding. The study polled mothers attending child health clinics in Finland using a questionnaire that addressed the issues of health knowledge and behaviours such as sharing a spoon with their child, kissing on the lips, and the mothers’ tooth brushing, smoking, age, and level of education. Of the mothers, 11% believed that oral bacteria could not be transmitted from mother to child. The most common health practices related to bacterial transmission from the mother’s mouth to the child’s mouth was kissing the child on the lips (38%), followed by sharing a spoon when feeding the child (14%). The research reported: ‘Behaviours related to the transmission of oral bacteria, together with diet and oral hygiene, are important in the aetiology of dental caries in toddlers. Consequently, protecting babies and toddlers from the maternal transmission of oral bacteria is considered vital to their oral health. ‘The World Health Organization, for example, has published various guidelines and recommendations on health practices for mothers and caregivers. In addition, reducing the mother’s own oral bacteria is believed to minimise its transmission to the child and thus to decrease the risk for caries.’ Only parents (or caregivers) with active tooth decay can spread the Streptococcus mutans bacteria through the transfer of saliva.