The most common disease among children is dental caries with a prevalence up to 8 times higher than asthma. Dietary sugars are known to play a role in the development and progression of dental caries. In a recent cross-sectional study published in 2021 in the Scholars Journal of Dental Sciences the authors aimed to “assess the relationship between, dietary intake, dietary habits, oral hygiene practices and dental caries during childhood.”1
Children are at a higher risk of developing dental caries due to the lack of proper dietary habits, and their inability to properly and effectively perform oral hygiene practices. One of the main goals stated by the authors of this study was not to obtain quantitative knowledge, rather to gain knowledge of “the awareness of parents about this issue.”
A total of 150 children were enrolled in the study between the ages of 2-16 years. The participants were selected randomly from public hospitals. Inclusion criteria was that the child must have at least one carious tooth. Questionnaires were filled out by parents or guardians that included personal information as well as hygiene practices, dietary intake and dietary habits.
The results showed a difference in dental caries among age groups. Children aged 2-4 years had on average two teeth with dental caries, while age 11+ years had on average four teeth with carious lesions. Parents profession played a role as children whose father or mother were doctors or nurses had on average 2 teeth with carious lesions while children of parents in other professions had on average three or more teeth with carious lesions.
Meal patterns were significant as well. Children with a regular meal pattern had on average two carious lesions, while children with irregular meal patterns had three or more carious lesions on average. Snacking was indicative of higher caries rates, children that ate one snack a day had on average two teeth with carious lesions. Average dental caries increased with the number of snacks a child has per day. The type of snack also played a role as children that ate junk food had statistically significant higher rates of carious lesions. Interestingly, there was no significant difference in caries rate among children that drank milk before bed and those that did not drink milk before bed. Similar results were observed among children that drank one cup of juice or more.
Additional surprising findings include the observation that brushing teeth before bed has no direct relationship to tooth decay, and there is “no relationship between drinking milk before bed and dental caries, rather, milk protects against caries.”
In conclusion, the authors state, “the present study reported on childhood dental caries, prevalence and risk factors in Benghazi, Libya. The prevalence of dental caries in children was an average of 3 carious lesions. Socio-demographic factors, parental education, occupation, and income, oral hygiene practices and, dietary intake and habits were positively associated with dental caries each play a role in initiating or increasing a child’s exposure to dental caries. Supplement intake during childhood, however did not prevent caries later on in children.”
Do you take a dental history on your patients that includes dietary habits? Can changing dietary habits alone change caries risk in children? How do you feel about the discovery that milk before bed does not contribute to caries yet appears to have a protective mechanism?
- Elfagi, Salima & Abd, Rowaida & Wahab, El & Mustafa, Naima & Jamal, Esraa & Nouh, Faiza & Omar, Mariam & Eltuhami, Ashmisa. (2021). Scholars Journal of Dental Sciences Study the Relation between Dietary Intake and Oral Hygiene and Dental Caries during Childhood. 203-216. 10.36347/sjds.2021.v08i07.004.