When it comes to oral health, start good habits early – before age two. That’s the conclusion of a study of more than 1,000 children published in the journal Acta Ondontologica Scandinavica.
The study was done in Norway, and kept track of children from birth to five years. When the children were 18 months old, their parents completed surveys about brushing, flossing and other oral health behaviours. They answered the same questions when the children were five years old, and each child was given an oral exam and x-rays then too.
The researchers found that certain habits at 18 months could help to predict a higher risk of tooth decay at age five:
• Brushing teeth less than twice a day: Children whose teeth were brushed less than two times a day when they were 18 months old were twice as likely to have decay as children whose teeth were brushed two or more times a day.
• At least one sugary drink per week: Children who were offered sugary drinks at least once a week when they were 18 months old were nearly twice as likely to have tooth decay at age five as children who had fewer sugary drinks.
The study took family factors such as income and education into account.
The authors conclude that early habits have long-term effects on oral health. They suggest that healthcare professionals help parents who may have challenges establishing healthy habits early on.