Parental influence and the development of dental caries in children aged 0-6 years: A systematic review of the literature

Merrilyn Hooley, Helen Skouteris, Cecile Boganin, Julie Satur, Nicky Kilpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: A well established body of research documents the role of individual factors, such as biology and diet, in the aetiology of early childhood caries (ECC). Recently empirical attention has shifted to the relationships between broader ecological influences (e.g., education, ethnicity and income) and ECC; however, how such determinants interplay in the aetiology of ECC remains unclear. An intermediary mechanism that warrants greater empirical attention is parental influences. This oversight is interesting given the primacy of the parent in governing the child's proximate environment and the likelihood of the child endorsing adaptive or maladaptive health attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. The objective of this paper was to conduct a systematic review of the evidence for parental influences on the development of caries in children aged 0-6 years. Data: All studies testing associations between dental caries and socio-demographic factors, feeding practices, parent attributes, behaviours, oral health, attitudes, knowledge and beliefs in children aged 0-6 years, published between 2006 and 2011. Source: Medline, ISI, Cochrane, Scopus, Global Health and CINAHL databases. Study selection: Fifty-five studies were included from an initial identification of 1805 studies. Conclusions: To date, most research has focused on the association between caries and socio-demographic and feeding factors with few studies exploring parents' attributes, attitudes, knowledge and beliefs, and none exploring possible pathways between the multiple layers of influences potentially accounting for how determinants of ECC operate and traverse individual, familial, community, and socio-cultural contexts. Collaboration between Psychologists and Dentists may accelerate the identification and understanding of mechanisms that underlie risk associated with ECC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)873-885
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dentistry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Dental caries
  • Parenting
  • Systematic review
  • Young children

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