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1 in 5 Richmond preschoolers have tooth decay

Researcher: conflicting oral hygiene messages may be the cause

A new research conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) shows that almost 20 per cent of kindergarten age children in Richmond have visible tooth decay — it’s the highest rate in the VCH region.

Researchers said redundant and conflicting information might be the root of the high tooth decay rate.

“It’s important to know more about Richmond parents’ beliefs and practices around baby teeth, because tooth decay in baby teeth has significant health impacts,” said Christina Salgado, manager of Community and Family Health in Richmond.

She said for a lot of parents, there was perhaps too much information, from VCH providers and the industry, which can be conflicting and confusing.

“Most parents have a clear understanding that they should avoid giving young children sugary drinks. However, many were uncertain about a lot of basic dental care, such as whether fluoride toothpaste can be used for children or when to start brushing and how many times a day to brush,” said Salgado.

“Some parents thought their pre-schoolers were capable of doing a good job of brushing on their own — they aren’t.”

She added that many infant and children’s toothpastes purchased locally come from the U.S. and recommendations on the container are not applicable to Richmond.

For example, children here need fluoridated toothpaste at all ages because our water is not fluoridated, according to Salgado.

“We have to have a simpler message about oral hygiene,” she said.

Salgado and her colleagues will be crafting simple key messages for sharing with all parents and health and dental care providers through Richmond’s innovative website RichmondKids.

She is hopeful that, by the next survey of kindergarteners in 2018, tooth decay rates will go down in Richmond’s kindergartners.