A recent thesis out of Sahlgrenska Academy (of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden) is convincingly positing the importance of proper dental hygiene education in battling rising obesity levels among children.
Studying the Diets of Children
Specifically, one of the sub-studies presented in the paper “Diets of European Children, With Focus on BMI, Well-being, and Families” looked into eating behaviors in addition to the dental health and BMI levels of 271 pre-school and primary school children.
Taking into account elemental factors such as height, weight, and food intake, a clear link was identified: those children who ate more frequently, consumed more sugary foods, and showed a higher BMI were also found to have a higher presence of caries bacteria, commonly associated with tooth decay.
While it may seem obvious that those who eat more often will have a higher possibility of experiencing tooth decay, the types of foods are equally important in considering the overall picture. There is a clear correlation between sugary foods, tooth decay, obesity, and a high BMI. Mere dental care, such as more frequent brushing, cannot successfully offset the results of this kind of lifestyle.
Increasing Awareness of Dental Health
Using common sense, the author of the study, Louise Arvidsson, identified the importance of bringing dental health awareness to young children. Telling them it is bad to eat certain foods, especially sweets that children naturally love, does little to deter bad eating habits.
In her thesis, Arvidsson uncovered this interesting pattern: those parents that attempt to discourage the bad eating habits of their youngsters (from ages 2 to 10) more often than not ended up with overweight children within the next six years. Clearly, this disciplinary approach fails to achieve its intended goal and instead appears to push its subjects in the opposite and unintended dietary direction.
However, on the positive side of the picture, parents and authorities such as doctors and educators can and do make a positive difference through education and better dental awareness. In another sub-study, Arvidsson concluded that those children who adhered to general dietary recommendations fared much better.
In addition to consistently reporting better states of mental well-being, Arvidsson also learned that these same children reported improved self-esteem, closer and more stable relationships with peers, and fewer emotional problems.
Factors such as socio-economic statuses or the child’s comparative weight had little to no influence over the results. There appears to be a solid link between healthy eating, dental care, and the overall wellness of your children.
Even more encouraging is that these same results apply to adults, meaning that everyone has the choice and the power to improve their health and happiness through better dental awareness and maintenance.
Improving Collaboration and Communication
An advocate of better integration of health care services to bring a more holistic attitude to the care of children, Arvidsson encourages professionals in the medical field to overlap their services and communications efforts to better serve their patients, particularly in preventive care through education and awareness.
While we already encourage physical activity and a positive mental outlook to be a part of children’s lives, it is just as important to emphasize the difference that the right diet will make. General dietary recommendations suggest a sensible combination of whole grain products, about 500 grams of fruits and vegetables daily, along with a limited intake of both sugars and saturated fats. These few and simple steps can make a difference between a vibrant and healthy life or a life filled with ailments and discomfort.
Arvidsson’s thesis is part of a larger European Study, Idefics (Identification and Prevention of Dietary- and Lifestyle-induced Health Effects in Children and Infants). Its focus is primarily on the growing and alarming obesity epidemic that is impacting children throughout Europe as well as across the globe.