Kids More Likely to Visit Dentist if Parents Do

Kids more likely to visit dentist if parents do
By DrBicuspid Staff
February 2, 2010

Whether children receive regular dental care is strongly associated with their parents’ history of seeking dental care, according to a new study in Pediatrics (February 1, 2010). The report is the first to analyze the relationship between parents’ and children’s dental visits in a nationally representative sample.

“When parents don’t see the dentist, their children are much less likely to see the dentist,” said lead author Inyang Isong, M.D., of the MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, in a press release. “We also found that the children of parents who have put off their own dental care for financial reasons are more likely to have their care deferred due to cost as well. It looks like strategies to promote oral health should focus on the whole family.”

Earlier investigations of the impact of parents accessing dental care focused on particular demographic groups. To see whether associations from those studies applied more broadly, researchers of the current study analyzed data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and its Child Health Supplement, which are designed to collect basic health and demographic information, along with answers to questions on health topics of current interest, from a cross section of the U.S. population.

Survey responses including data regarding dental visits for both a child and parent in the same household was available for more than 6,100 matched pairs. Overall, 77% of children and 64% of parents had a dental visit in the previous 12 months. Among parents who reported seeing a dentist during the preceding year, 86% of children had also seen a dentist; but only 64% of the children of parents with no recent dental visit had seen a dentist during the previous 12 months.

In addition, among parents who put off their own dental care because of financial considerations, 27% of their children also had dental care deferred. In contrast, only 3% of children whose parents had not put off their own care had their dental care deferred.

“Even when children are covered by medical insurance, it appears that financial barriers are influencing parents’ decisions about accessing dental care for their children,” Dr. Isong stated. “We’re now in the process of looking at the impact of dental insurance — something not addressed by the NHIS — and other enabling resources on the relationship between parents’ and children’s receipt of dental care.”

Copyright © 2010