Poor oral health not only damages children’s teeth, it can also lower their self-esteem and harm their performance at school, a new survey has found.
The survey commissioned by Pepsodent and the report, published ahead of World Oral Health Day on March 20th, showed that the quality of a child’s oral care can have an impact beyond obvious medical problems like bad breath and dental pain; it can also limit their potential and negatively impact their self-esteem.
The study which was done in eight countries including Ghana indicates that the quality of a child’s oral care has repercussions beyond just health; it limits a child’s potential.
While both parents and children claim that toothbrushing is their most important daily routine, in reality some parents “reward” their children by allowing them to skip nightly brushing, with measurable and dramatic consequences for oral health and performance at school.
Tooth decay is the world’s most widespread disease according to the World Health Organization; the study shows that the majority of children across the globe have experienced oral pain in the past year, with one third reporting this pain to be moderate to severe.
Children with good oral care not only suffer less pain, they also are more likely to have high self-esteem with its accompanying educational and social benefits. In contrast, those with poor oral care are more likely to have lower self-esteem (49% compared to 32% of those with good oral health); their lack of confidence and lower sense of self-worth affects the way they feel and behave in many different ways. From participation in class to making friends, the Pepsodent global study reveals that children who don’t take care of their teeth are having more problems in all aspects of their life.
In Ghana specifically:
- 3 in 10 (29%) children have missed school due to oral pain in the last year – equivalent to 3 million children.
- 37% of children who experienced oral pain in the last 12 months have not taken part in an activity at school because of their teeth (compared to 19% of those with no oral pain)
- Almost a quarter (24%) of children who felt oral pain in the last 12 months have not raised their hand in class or asked for help because they felt bad about their teeth (vs. 13% among those with no oral pain
- Children who have experienced pain in the last 12 months are more likely to avoid socialising with their peers because of their teeth (32% compared to 20% among those who have not felt oral pain).
While losing teeth is a natural part of growing up, oral pain related to cavities and tooth decay is not. Clearly current oral care messaging – focusing on health impacts alone – isn’t working: Dr. Paapa Puplampu, Vice President, Ghana Dental Association, explains: “Ultimately, we can now prove the impact of oral care on a child’s confidence and sense of self-worth on a global scale. This refreshed, more compelling messaging could drive real behaviour change around prevention, in turn reducing the current alarming levels of tooth decay and oral pain.”
Whilst most children surveyed – and their parents – reported brushing their teeth twice a day, on closer questioning it was revealed that 3 in 10 parents occasionally allowed their child to skip nightly brushing, which had a direct link to higher incidence of oral pain. (67% compared to 57% among those whose parents did not let them off). Some are even offering skipping brushing as a “reward”.
Patience Oforiwa Mpereh, Oralcare Category Manager, said Unilever’s brands have been working on prevention through free dental check-ups and school programmes for 25 years, so that they can spread outstanding oral health across the globe and unlock the power of as many smiles as possible.
“So far, they have protected 80 million smiles globally. On top of the all year long work, on World Oral Health Day, we reinforce these messages with events at schools in a number of markets. With this report, Unilever hopes to help evolve the conversation around oral care education around the world to inspire changes today that foster more opportunities for tomorrow,” Mpereh added.
Unilever’s oral care education covers the following:
- Ensuring brushing twice a day, never skipping bedtime brushing which is crucial for prevention: embracing brushing for ourselves and not only for others
- Incorporating preventing care since a child’s very young age, therefore avoiding visiting the dentist only when there’s already issues, making it an unavoidable traumatic experience
- Moving from focusing strictly on the health-related concerns, to acknowledging the impact of pain on children’s self-esteem and potential to perform at school, socialize and thrive.
The survey was carried out with children aged 6-17 years old and their parents across eight markets: Chile, Egypt, France, Italy, Indonesia, US, Ghana, Vietnam. There was a total of 4,000 respondents (500 from each market).