TNO has been performing epidemiological studies of the oral hygiene of children since 1987. This has revealed that although things have not worsened over time, there is much that needs improving. Around 40 per cent of five year-olds have or have had had cavities but the same applies to a good 84 per cent of young adults. Moreover, significant socio-economic differences exist.
Annemarie Schuller, senior Child Health researcher: “Life-long oral health. That’s what we want to achieve. And it really is possible because caries is nearly always preventable. Good oral hygiene begins when the first teeth break through.”
It is much easier to learn good habits than to break free of bad habits. So it is vital to inform, parents as early as possible about healthy behaviour. We are doing this through the GigaGaaf project along with the University of Groningen and Erasmus University. Contributions are also being made by dental practices in East Groningen, Youth Dental Care West in The Hague and consultation agencies in East Groningen and The Hague.
Until now parents had been advised to go to the dentist with children from around the age of two when they have a full set of milk teeth. The consultation agencies of GigaGaaf refer all parents with children of six months to an oral hygiene professional. The professionals then gear their approach entirely to the individual cases: some parents require more intensive guidance than others. Using this strategy we are trying to improve the oral hygiene of children and narrow the socio-economic differences.
If children visit the dentist at six months, this means an extra consultation fee. So we are also looking at the cost-effectiveness of this project. A cavity in permanent teeth costs around 1800 euros from a lifetime perspective; the filling has to be replaced now and then, root canal treatment or even a crown may be necessary, so prevention can generate substantial savings.
TNO’s oral hygiene staff have a lot of public oral health knowledge, especially for vulnerable groups. We are a reliable partner for professionals and policymakers, performing the epidemiological study ‘Kies voor tanden’ (Choose Teeth) for the Netherlands Care Institute, for example. If you would like to cooperate, contact us.