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Children Likelier to See Dentist if Parents Go Too
Date:2/2/2010

To improve tooth health, target mom, dad and pediatricians, experts say

TUESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Parents who make regular visits to the dentist are more likely to take their children to the dentist, a new study shows.

Using data from a recent National Health Interview Study on 6,107 children aged 2 to 17, and their parents, researchers found that 77 percent of children and 64 percent of parents had seen a dentist in the previous year.

Kids whose parents saw a dentist were more likely to have seen a dentist, too. About 86 percent of children whose parents had a dental visit during the preceding year had a dental exam, compared to about 63 percent of the children whose parents hadn't, the study authors found.

With cavities in children on the rise, programs that encourage kids to take care of their teeth should also target their parents, said study author Dr. Inyang Isong, a pediatrician and research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy.

"Strategies to promote oral health should focus on the whole family," Isong said.

In the study, about 76 percent of the parents were employed, and the same number had health insurance. But even among those with health coverage, financial barriers kept some families out of the dentist's chair, Isong said.

Among parents who delayed dental care because of cost, 27 percent of their children also had dental care deferred.

Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, especially among minority and lower-income kids, according to background information in the study released online Feb. 1 in advance of publication in the March print issue of Pediatrics.

Mary Hayes, a pediatric dentist in Chicago and a spokewoman for the American Dental Association, said the study reflects what she sees in practice.

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