Tooth decay rates have declined during the last 50 years, but researchers are still looking for ways to predict which children are at high risk for cavities.
Researchers at the University of Griefswald, Germany, did a study on tooth decay risk, which has been published in the journal Quintessence International. They started with 521 kindergarten-aged children. Each child’s mouth was examined, and researchers also asked questions about their parents’ education levels.
Ten years later, 170 of the children were examined again. Children whose fathers had at least a college degree had lower levels of tooth decay than other children.
Between kindergarten and the 10-year follow-up visit, the group with college-educated fathers had an average of two to three decayed, missing or filled teeth. In the other group of children, the average was about five decayed, missing or filled teeth. The researchers did not note a link between a mother’s education level and her child’s oral health.
The study also kept track of the children after high school. Those who went on to college had healthier mouths as kindergartners. They had about six decayed or filled teeth at that time, compared with 11 in children who did not go on to college.
The researchers concluded that parents’ education level and the amount of tooth decay at age five or six are strong predictors of a child’s oral health for the rest of childhood.