Getting kids to brush may be a chore, but it is a vitally important task. In fact, new research shows it may be even more important than once believed. A new study suggests that tooth decay may actually stunt a child’s growth.
The study, published in the online version of Pediatrics Journal, was conducted by a joint research team from the University College London and King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital in Saudi Arabia. In the study, the team set out to see what effects dental health had on child development. Previous studies had turned out inconclusive, so this team took a number of extra steps to ensure valid correlations.
The team’s results were shocking. Researchers examined the state of decay of children’s teeth and compared that to the height and weight of children in Saudi Arabia aged between 6 and 8. An examination of the data revealed a relevant correlation between tooth decay and child development. Children with severe decay had a higher chance of being underweight and shorter when compared to their peers.
To avoid false positives in their research, the team went to great lengths to rule out secondary factors like social values, demographics, etc. Even after adjusting for these factors, the team found that a correlation existed.
Of course, the study does leave some questions to be answered. It is not clear whether the child’s development caused the tooth decay issues or vice versa. However, the researchers point to the results of similar studies that, while inconclusive, did hint at the tooth decay actually being the cause of the low body weight and height, and not the reverse.
While additional research will be required to confirm the team’s findings, the results are quite intriguing. For parents who have a hard time getting their kids to take care of their teeth (which is most parents), this may be one more tool to motivate those children to brush and floss. Unlike promising they can grow big and strong by eating their vegetables, there is actually some hard science backing up the claim that regular brushing will help them in that department.