Unique Study Explores Parenting, Family Function and Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Unique Study Explores Parenting, Family Function and Early Childhood Tooth Decay


Researchers at the University of Rochester’s Eastman Institute of Oral Health are starting a first of its kind study exploring how stress, parenting behaviors and family function may lead to early childhood tooth decay.

Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease and it disproportionately affects children living in poverty. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Early Childhood Caries (cavities) affects 28 percent of American preschool-aged children.

Dr. Dorota Kopycka-Kedzierawski, the project’s principal investigator, says there have been many attempts over decades to prevent the disease, but the problem persists.

"It doesn't disappear, even if it's treated. We know from prior studies that many kids relapse and then this sets them up for their oral health for life."

Researchers will be looking at biological factors, but they'll also study parent-child relationships and family habits.

"We're going to look at cortisol, which is a stress hormone; we're going to look at certain bacteria. We'll have video recordings of child-parent interactions sessions so we can see how the parents interact with children and if this affects their oral health or not, " Kopycka-Kedzierawski said.

They will follow more than 200 local preschoolers for two years who are at high risk of tooth decay, but who are cavity free at the start of the study.

Once specific problem areas are identified, researchers hope to develop targeted intervention strategies.

Beth Adams/WXXI News