The SMILE study (Study of Mothers’ and Infants’ Life Events affecting oral health) will help dental experts to identify the critical factors that shape the oral health of toddlers and pre-school children.
“Despite a substantial level of resources being dedicated to child oral health, dental decay remains the most prevalent chronic disease in children,” says study leader Associate Professor Loc Do, from the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (ARCPOH) at the University of Adelaide’s School of Dentistry.
The SMILE study will look at 1800 children from birth until the age of 2-3 years.
Parents will complete questionnaires about various aspects of the child’s life, including diet, fluid consumption and other factors that might impact on oral health. Children will be given a dental examination at age 2-3 years, and any health conditions, such as child obesity, will also be noted.
“Children may have varying patterns of oral health practices and different patterns of diet and fluid consumption, leading to different levels of tooth decay risk from a very early lifestage,” Associate Professor Do says.
“Such practices may limit the benefit of current oral health preventive programs.
“We believe that oral health should not be looked at in isolation from other factors in children’s lives, and that a combined preventive approach, targeting both oral health and general health conditions, could yield significantly greater benefits for children,” he says.
Associate Professor Do says the study could also point to differences in the determinants of oral health of children within different socioeconomic groups.
“This could provide us with opportunities to develop more targeted strategies to improve the oral health of disadvantaged young children,” he says.
Eligible mothers will be approached by a trained staff member to take part in the study after giving birth.
For more information about the SMILE study, call toll free on: 1800 333 370 or email: [email protected]
This research has been funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).