Parenting Style Predicts Whether Kids Develop Cavities

Parenting Style Predicts Childhood Cavities
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There are four main types of parenting styles and the effects each style has on children has been documented in research for decades. Much of the research has focused on child behavior problems and the long-term effects of growing up in households that use various discipline strategies.

The latest research suggests that your parenting style may even impact your child’s oral health. Although there are many factors that determine how many cavities kids develop, it’s quite likely that your discipline strategies may play a major role.

Parenting and Cavities

The first trip to the dentist can be scary for many children. There are lots of strange devices and weird noises that can raise their anxiety levels. Not to mention, the idea of a stranger reaching into their mouths can be quite unsettling.

Researchers decided to study parenting styles and initial dental visits for children at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. All the children in the study were between the ages of 3 and 6. In addition to observing the children’s behavior and analyzing each parent’s parenting style, researchers also took note of how many cavities each child had.  

Researchers found that 80% of children with authoritative parents had cavities, compared to 97% of children with permissive parents. They also discovered that 93% of children with authoritative parents exhibited positive behavior, as compared to 42% of children with permissive parents.

Why Kids with Permissive Parents May Have More Cavities

There are many possible reasons why kids with permissive parents may have more cavities. One of the main characteristics of permissive parents is their tendency to shrug off misbehavior. If a child throws a temper tantrum and insists he doesn’t want to brush his teeth, a permissive parent is more likely to give in and agree to let him skip brushing “just this once.”

And they may be less likely to follow up to ensure a child is telling the truth when he claims he “already brushed.” Brushing less often may increase the number of cavities children develop over time.

Permissive parents may also struggle more to say no. If a child wants a sweet treat or wants more sugar sweetened juice, a permissive parent is likely to oblige. Certainly, allowing kids to have extra sweet treats can play a role in their overall oral health.

Permissive parents may also have a more relaxed attitude about cavities and oral hygiene. They may assume, “Kids will be kids,” and that reluctance to care for their teeth is simply a normal phase that kids experience. The negative consequences of a child growing up with permissive parents tend to stem from their lack of concern about the long-term impact of a child’s daily choices.

How Authoritative Parents Prevent Cavities

It’s not surprising that authoritative parents have kids with fewer behavior problems and fewer cavities compared to permissive parents.

Parents with an authoritative parenting style are more likely to have clear household rules and an established bedtime routines that involve time set aside for hygiene.

Children are also less likely to convince authoritative parents they can skip brushing their teeth. Whining, begging, and temper tantrums tend to be ineffective. Authoritative parents are much more likely to insist that children take good care of their oral health, even on the days when they don’t feel like it.

Authoritative parents are also more inclined to take a proactive approach to helping kids care for their teeth. They may use sticker charts, token economy systems, or other reward systems to encourage good behavior.

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