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Behaviors, Not Overweight, Linked with Dental Problems in Kids
December 19,2012

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Overweight children are not more likely to have dental problems, says a study from China. However, other behaviors can increase or decrease children's risk of tooth decay.

The study included 280 children. They ranged in age from 7 to 12. Of the children, 38% were overweight. This included 32% of the girls and 42% of the boys.

About 84% of the children had tooth decay, or a history of tooth decay. The average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth was about 3 per child. Overweight children were no more likely to have tooth decay than children of normal weight. Researchers also did not find more missing, decayed or filled teeth in overweight children.

Although the study did not find that being overweight was related to tooth decay, the researchers did discover other links:

  • Children who ate yogurt two to four times a week were less likely to have tooth decay than children who ate it less often or not at all.
  • Children who chewed gum a few times per week were less likely to have tooth decay than children who did not chew gum.
  • Children who often breathed through their mouths were more likely to have tooth decay than children who did not.
  • Children whose parents had a lot of tooth decay were more likely to have tooth decay than children whose parents had no decay.

The study also collected information on the oral hygiene habits of the children.

  • About 59% brushed their teeth at least twice a day.
  • About 19% rinsed their mouths or brushed their teeth after meals.
  • Only 42% used toothpaste that contained fluoride.
  • Only 3% flossed every day.
  • Only 7% had regular dental exams.
  • About 67% went to the dentist only when there was a problem.

The researchers note that the low levels of regular dental visits could have a negative effect on children's teeth and gums. They said that improving the oral health behaviors of parents was crucial. They also noted that parents may not know that mouth breathing can increase the risk for tooth decay.

The study did not find a link between drinking carbonated beverages and the risk of tooth decay. However, most children in this study did not drink them. Only 6% drank at least one bottle per day.

The study appears in the online version of the journal Caries Research. It was published December 5.

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