Purpose: To examine the relationship between parenting styles and parental attitudes towards oral health practices in children.
Methods: Parents of children aged 4-6 years presenting to four public dental clinics completed the Parenting Styles Dimensions Questionnaire (PSDQ) and a questionnaire on parental attitudes, child diet and oral hygiene practices. Child oral health was evaluated using Plaque Index (PI) and dmft-Index.
Results: Three hundred and eighty-nine children (mean age: 62.3 ± 9.8 months) were recruited. The median dmft was 4 (IQR = 9) and median PI was 1.5 (IQR = 0.8). An authoritative parenting style was observed in 95.1% of parents. Authoritative parents were more likely to monitor sweets/snacks intake (P = 0.004) and less inclined to offer sweets/snacks in exchange for good behaviour (P = 0.04) than permissive parents. However, actual between-meal snacking frequency did not differ between styles (P = 0.43). Permissive parents were less likely to ensure bedtime toothbrushing (P = 0.001) or brush thoroughly when busy or tired (P = 0.03) compared to authoritative parents; these attitudes were associated with higher frequencies of actual omission of bedtime toothbrushing (P = 0.006) in their children. A higher frequency of omitting bedtime toothbrushing significantly predicted a permissive parenting style (OR = 12.1, P = 0.009). Parenting styles were not associated with dmft (P = 0.72) and/or PI (P = 0.34).
Conclusions: Authoritative parenting was associated with positive attitudes regarding both preventive dietary and oral hygiene practices. Actual oral hygiene practices were more ideal in children with authoritative parents, but parenting styles had no impact on actual dietary habits.
Keywords: Caries; Oral health behaviours; Oral hygiene; Paediatric dentistry; Parenting styles.