Parental influences – the be-all-or-end-all of good health?


  Posted by: Dental Design      13th May 2023

Caregivers play a monumental role in the lives of young children. While young people are notorious for always doing the exact opposite to what they’re told, parental influence can affect behaviours in young individuals. As such, it’s vital that the dental team are able to support families in adopting and maintaining better oral health practises, to ensure that good dental hygiene is enjoyed by parents and children alike.

Intergenerational health

Children are moulded initially by their caregivers and the environment in which they are raised. Even prior to birth, a mother’s wellbeing has been reported to impact her future child’s health; the literature suggests that adopting healthier lifestyle habits before and during gestation may be beneficial to foetal wellbeing, which can extend into childhood;[i] this might include lifestyle changes such as regular exercisei and implementing a balanced diet.[ii] Similarly, it can positively influence postnatal health for the mother, and decrease the child’s risk of certain chronic conditions such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.i As you know, maternal oral health can influence birth outcomes and the oral health of the child; poor dental hygiene prior to pregnancy has been associated with early childhood caries, in addition to preterm and/or low birth-weight babies.[iii] [iv]Recent studies support the theory that paternal health plays a pivotal role in the health of their child/children, alongside maternal health; a paternal diet that is high in sugars and fats, and low in protein, can adversely affect their offspring.[v] As such, the health of both parents prior to pregnancy is fundamental.

Once born, a child’s health is integral to their adult health and as such good habits must be nurtured and encouraged by caregivers. Research has postulated three basic foundations of lifelong health, including: a stable and responsive environment of relationships; safe and supportive physical, chemical and built environments; and sound and appropriate nutrition.[vi] In terms of oral health, certain factors have been proposed, such as the caregiver’s oral health beliefs and their own practises, in addition to family function, living environment and socioeconomic status.[vii] Recent statistics state that approximately nine out of 10 tooth extractions in hospitals, among those aged between 0 and five-years-old, are due to preventable tooth decay.[viii] Tooth extractions are still the most common procedure in six- to 10-year-olds.viii To ensure that children and young adolescences are able to adequately care for their oral health, their caregivers should not only possess suitable oral health literacy (OHL), but must also be able to care for their own health.[ix] A direct relationship has been established between caregivers’ oral health habits and those of their children.[x]

How can the dental team help?

The literature recognises that supporting families and their oral health lies not just with the dental team, but with doctors, nurses, health visitors and school teachers. The issue of oral health is also relevant on a social, economic and political scale, and so it is a challenge that must continue to be tackled with a multidisciplinary approach.[xi] Indeed, research shows that many general dental practitioners (GDPs) feel ‘frustrated’ and ‘isolated’ when promoting oral health in children, especially those who are at a high risk of caries.xiNonetheless, dental professionals are still in a prime position to offer key advice and guidance to caregivers and their children, helping them establish lifelong positive oral health habits.

Advice can include reiterating the basic principles of oral health care, such as: brushing twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes; spitting after brushing instead of rinsing; limiting sugary foods and drinks; and attending regular dental appointments. Caregivers should be encouraged to promote their own self-care, following all of the aforementioned advice and also reducing any behaviours such as smoking and alcohol consumption. When caregivers model healthy behaviours, this can influence behaviours in their children; when children can see the importance of oral care (and general self-care), they are more likely to adopt positive habits too.[xii] 

Caregivers can also partake in an oral hygiene routine with their child, demonstrating how they can effectively brush and interdentally clean their teeth. The Waterpik® Water Flosser is safe for children six years and above with parental supervision. It is clinically proven to reduce plaque,[xiii] and is 50% more effective for improving gum health over traditional dental floss.[xiv] Needed for only one minute a day, the Waterpik® Water Flosser helps to keep the oral cavity clear of food debris and bacteria, for a fresh and healthy smile. Backed by over 60 years of innovation, all family members can enjoy the benefits of the Waterpik® Water Flosser.

A family affair 

Whether we like it or not, younger generations look up to adults as their role models. It’s important that caregivers are able to demonstrate positive lifestyle habits and routines that their children can adopt, for a long life of good health.


For more information on Waterpik® Water Flosser products visit Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.

Andrea Hammond is a Dental Hygienist and Waterpik Professional Educator
Andrea has worked in dentistry since 1996, first qualifying as a dental nurse in 1998 – the same year in which she secured a place on the very first dental therapy cohort at the Eastman Dental Hospital. Following this, she was awarded diplomas in both dental hygiene and dental therapy in the year 2000, and became an active member of the GDC fitness to practice panel since 2015. Today, she continues to share knowledge as a Professional Educator for Waterpik and be deeply involved in the industry as a Regional Group Representative for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT).

[i] Moyer, C., Reoyo, O.R. and May, L. (2016). The Influence of Prenatal Exercise on Offspring Health: A Review. Clinical Medicine Insights: Women’s Health, [online] 9, p.CMWH.S34670. Available at:[Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[ii] De Giuseppe, R., Bocchi, M., Maffoni, S., Del Bo, E., Manzoni, F., Cerbo, R.M., Porri, D. and Cena, H. (2021). Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle Habits during Pregnancy: Is There an Association with Small for Gestational Age Infants? An Italian Single Centre Experience. Nutrients, [online] 13(6), p.1941. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[iii] Vamos, C.A., Thompson, E.L., Avendano, M., Daley, E.M., Quinonez, R.B. and Boggess, K. (2015). Oral health promotion interventions during pregnancy: a systematic review. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, [online] 43(5), pp.385–396. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[iv] George, A., Johnson, M., Blinkhorn, A., Ellis, S., Bhole, S. and Ajwani, S. (2010). Promoting oral health during pregnancy: current evidence and implications for Australian midwives. Journal of Clinical Nursing, [online] 19(23-24), pp.3324–3333. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[v] Dimofski, P., Meyre, D., Dreumont, N. and Leininger-Muller, B. (2021). Consequences of Paternal Nutrition on Offspring Health and Disease. Nutrients, [online] 13(8), p.2818. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[vi] Harvard University (2015). Why Children’s Health is the Foundation of Lifelong Health. [online] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[vii] Duijster, D., de Jong-Lenters, M., Verrips, E. and van Loveren, C. (2015). Establishing oral health promoting behaviours in children – parents’ views on barriers, facilitators and professional support: a qualitative study. BMC Oral Health, [online] 15(1). Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[viii] GOV.UK. (n.d.). Child oral health: applying All Our Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[ix] Khodadadi, E., Niknahad, A., Naghibi Sistani, M.M. and Motallebnejad, M. (2016). Parents’ Oral Health Literacy and its Impact on their Children’s Dental Health Status. Electronic physician, [online] 8(12), pp.3421–3425. Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[x] MOHEBBI, S.Z., VIRTANEN, J.I., MURTOMAA, H., VAHID-GOLPAYEGANI, M. and VEHKALAHTI, M.M. (2007). Mothers as facilitators of oral hygiene in early childhood. International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, [online] 0(0), p.070905003025002-??? Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[xi] Aljafari, A.K., Gallagher, J.E. and Hosey, M.T. (2015). Failure on all fronts: general dental practitioners’ views on promoting oral health in high caries risk children- a qualitative study. BMC Oral Health, [online] 15(1). Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[xii] Yee, A.Z.H., Lwin, M.O. and Ho, S.S. (2017). The influence of parental practices on child promotive and preventive food consumption behaviors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, [online] 14(1). Available at: [Accessed 21 Dec. 2022].

[xiii] Biofilm Removal with a Dental Water Jet

Gorur A, Lyle DM, Schaudinn C, Costerton JW. Compend Contin Ed Dent 2009; 30 (Suppl 1):1 – 6. [Accessed 11 May 2022 22]

[xiv] The Effect of Interdental Cleaning Devices on Plaque Biofilm and Gingival Bleeding

Rosema NAM et al. The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. J Int Acad Periodontol 2011; 13(1):2-10. [Accessed 11 May 2022]


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