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Researchers from Institut National De La Recherche Scientifique — INRS in Quebec City, Canada, including Dr Tracie Barnett of INRS, took a look at schools in Greater Montreal to see how oral health was being promoted and what incidence this had on cavity rates in children. The study concluded that prevention programs are important, but that school food environments play a leading role in the appearance of cavities in kids aged eight to 10.

Food choices in and around schools vary greatly and affect the general health of children. It’s an environment that is often carefully observed to understand its impact on obesity prevalence, but rarely in relation to cavities. The data gathered for the QUALITY study (family study on the prevention of cardiovascular disease and Type-2 diabetes in kids and teens) was ideal for verifying children’s dental health.Over a period of two years, the team analysed various factors affecting 330 students at 200 schools, including socio-economic factors, school food environments and cavity prevention programs.

The findings suggested that programs promoting healthy eating and good dental hygiene had a positive but relatively modest impact compared to children’s food and socioeconomic environments.

The researchers suggested that making this component part of health promotion programs alongside obesity. Policies promoting healthy eating environments could have a greater impact on children’s oral health than school programs run in isolation to encourage kids to take good care of their teeth, the authors concluded. The research is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.