Children and adolescents

  Population considerations:

  • Access to dental care and resources. For children, lack of dental insurance is three times more common than lack of medical insurance (Mouradian, 2000). Dental providers have limited availability, which requires parents and children to choose between missing work and school and going to the dentist (Kelly, 2005).
  • Lack of oral care providers with pediatric training. Many pediatricians lack the current scientific knowledge needed to promote children’s oral health (Mouradian, 2000). Furthermore there are fewer trained specialists in children’s dentistry (Nash, 2003).
  • Attitudes of oral health care providers. Some Oral health care providers prefer not to treat publicly insured children (Nash, 2003).
  • Attitudes of adolescents.Adolescents often do not feel that it is necessary to attend dental examinations. They may feel that they are not vulnerable to oral disease and that they can handle oral health issues alone (Craven, 1994).
  • Harmful oral habits.Children and adolescents may develop harmful habits such as thumb sucking, mouth breathing, tongue sucking or lip biting that can lead to long-term negative effects (Kharbanda, 2003).      
  • Limited supervision by parents. Parents may not have the time or skills to check on their child’s oral hygiene habits (Kelly, 2005).
  • Trends. Oral piercings and other modifications are becoming increasingly popular among teenagers (Scully, 2001). Tongue piercing increases risk for tooth fractures and infections (McGeary, 2001; Botchway, 1998).

  Strategies to address considerations:

  • Increase access to dental care. Consider working with local providers, governments, schools and community organizations to increase children’s and adolescents’ access to oral health care.
  • Require continued education. Continuing education programs could be beneficial in ensuring that general health and oral health care providers are up to date in their knowledge of pediatric oral health (Mouradian, 2000).
  • Link to adolescents’ physical appearances. Incorporating messages that promote oral health as a way of getting prettier smiles and better smelling breath may encourage better oral habits.
  • Improve parent knowledge. It may be helpful to provide information and skills training to parents regarding proper oral health care for children and adolescents.
  • Encourage provider counseling. Providers should practice both prevention and professional care. Parents, children and teenagers may benefit from counseling about nutrition, oral health care, restorative treatment, poor oral habits, fluoride therapy and oral piercings.

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