Parents motivating factors for brushing children’s teeth were largely short term


Regular toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste has strong evidence for its effectiveness.  Brushing at least twice a day is more effective that once a day or less and ‘Twice a day” is has been a long-standing oral health message.  The aim of this qualitative study was to gain an in-depth understanding of the issues parents facing from socio-economically deprived backgrounds in relation to brushing their child’s teeth at home.

In depth telephone interviews were undertaken with 15 parents using a semi-structured approach. The interviews initially began with three open questions:-

  1. Tell me about your experience of brushing your child’s teeth at home?
  2. What things make toothbrushing at home with your child easier, for you?
  3. What things make toothbrushing with your child at home harder, for you?

Followed by simple probing question to elicit more information.  Interviews were recorded and analysed using a thematic approach. They found that:-

  • Parents discussed the difficulty of brushing their children’s teeth in the evening, due to changing day-to-day routines, and the subsequent difficulty of forming a toothbrushing habit.
  • Motivating factors for brushing children’s teeth were largely short term.
  • Satisfaction with brushing frequency was influenced more by perceptions of how often other parents brushed children’s teeth than by the ‘twice a day’ norm or health out- comes.

The authors suggest that this paper adds

Traditionally, oral health promotion has been based on an assumption that parents who brush their children’s teeth infrequently do so because they have poor oral health knowledge or do not prioritise their child’s oral health.

This article suggests that other factors may actually be important in parental decision-making about home toothbrushing.


This interesting study was part of the evaluation of the  ‘Designed to Smile’  programme running in Wales.  As dental caries in more prevalent in those from socio-economically deprived areas having a greater understanding of issues that parent face ensuring that toothbrushing is practiced in the home is important as it will allow this delivering this type of programme provide more appropriate advice and support.


Trubey RJ, Moore SC, Chestnutt IG. Parents’ reasons for brushing or not brushing their child’s teeth: a qualitative study. Int J Paediatr Dent. 2013 Apr  18. doi: 10.1111/ipd.12034. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 23600896.

Designed to Smile

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