Today on World Oral Health Day (WOHD), the American Dental Association joins FDI World Dental Federation (FDI) to highlight the urgent need for oral health education for children. The results of a survey from 13 countries, which asked parents with children aged five to 16 if their child’s school provided lessons on good oral care were released today. Poor oral health can negatively affect how a young mouth develops and leads to more than 50 million school hours being lost each year. It can also affect a child’s confidence, social skills as well as potential for success later in life. Oral health is, therefore, essential to a child’s general health and well-being.
The survey reports that U.S. schools rank second to last in promoting good oral health. When asked if their child’s school provided lessons on the importance of good oral care, 53 percent of parents from the U.S. said this was the case. The remaining countries’ results included the United Kingdom (29 percent), Australia (54 percent), Germany (69 percent), China (77 percent), Saudi Arabia (81 percent), Poland (84 percent), Morocco and Algeria (86 percent), Indonesia (87 percent), Brazil and India (91 percent) and Mexico (93 percent).
Thirty-two percent of parents in the U.S. ‘didn’t know’ how often their child’s school gave lessons on good oral care. The remaining countries’ results included the United Kingdom (49 percent), Australia (35 percent) Germany (19 percent), Saudi Arabia (12 percent), Poland (10 percent), China, Indonesia and Morocco (9 percent), Algeria (6 percent), India (5 percent), Brazil (3 percent) and Mexico (1 percent).
FDI President Dr. Kathryn Kell said, “The survey results show that not all parents know if their children are receiving oral health education at school. We must fill this knowledge gap, as oral diseases are the most prevalent diseases globally and affect 3.58 billion people; equivalent to half of the world’s population. What’s more, 486 million children suffer from tooth decay of primary teeth, which can cause premature tooth loss, pain, sleep disruption, problems eating and other health issues for young children.” She emphasized that “schools must be encouraged to teach children about good oral care.”
The good news is that 71 percent of parents across all countries agreed that schools should teach children about good oral care and 51 percent also recognized that parents play a role in oral health education.
WOHD Task Team Chair Dr. Edoardo Cavalle stated, “Good oral health habits start early, and we need to encourage children to brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and help them avoid foods and drinks high in sugars. We also need to prioritize regular dental check-ups. Millions of school days are lost each year because of poor oral health, seriously affecting a child’s ability to perform at school. Together, parents and teachers must play a key role in helping to educate children on the importance of keeping a healthy mouth and teeth, which will help secure the general health and well-being of future generations.”
In response to the survey findings and to help teachers and parents Act On Mouth Health, FDI has developed Mouth Heroes for schools, a multimedia teaching resource that provides tools to deliver engaging lessons about the importance of good oral health. Aimed at children aged five to nine, Mouth Heroes features a child-friendly spokesperson called ‘Toothie’, who takes children on an exciting journey to develop health-related life skills. By assisting teachers to integrate oral health into lessons,Mouth Heroes can help drive positive change. In addition, there are many resources available through the WOHD campaign website to assist parents in learning about good oral health practices for their children.
Parents and caregivers can also learn about healthy dental habits at the American Dental Association’s consumer website MouthHealthy.org.