The aim of this pilot study was to investigate the tooth-brushing behaviour of parents and toddlers, by analysis of tooth-brushing sessions videotaped in families’ homes. Eighteen families (self-selected from an ongoing preventive-intervention study) videotaped all home tooth-brushing sessions involving their toddler (average age 2.5 years) over a 24-hour period. The vast majority of families (89%) engaged in at least two sessions per day, usually supervised by mothers. The average length of the sessions was 142 s, although the brush tended to be in the child’s mouth for less than half of that time. On average, only 10 s were spent brushing the front teeth, 13 s the back teeth, and 29 s spent on non-brushing activities (e.g., biting brush, sucking water). Three styles of brushing were identified, and families tended to be consistent in their use of these styles: exclusively parent-led (least common), exclusively child-led, and shared between parent and child (most common). In contrast with these poor behavioural outcomes, feedback from parents indicated that they were generally confident that the sessions had been effective in achieving clean teeth. These findings suggest that home-based tooth-brushing activity falls far short of professional expectations. Tooth-brushing, even with fluoride toothpaste, may be seriously compromised as a method of reducing caries in toddlers because teeth are being brushed too briefly.
- Behavioural coding
- Home-based practice