Get access

Maternal Self-Report of Oral Health in 4-Year-Old Pacific Children from South Auckland, New Zealand: Findings from the Pacific Islands Families Study


  • Source of funding: Foundation for Science, Research and Technology, the Health Research Council of New Zealand, and the Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust.

Professor Philip Schluter, Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences, AUT University, Private Bag 92006, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. Tel.: +64-9-921-9999; Fax: +64-9-921-9877; e-mail:


Objectives: To report on the oral health risk in a disadvantaged group of 4-year-old Pacific children and their mothers living in South Auckland, New Zealand.

Methods: The Pacific Islands Families study follows a cohort of Pacific infants born in 2000. Maternal self-report of mother and child’s oral health practices and child’s filling and extraction experience was undertaken at interview approximately 4 years postpartum.

Results: Overall, 1,048 mothers of children were interviewed. Children’s reported oral health practices were generally poor, with 47 percent brushing ≤1/day, 47 percent having no adult assistance with brushing, 57 percent routinely snacking or drinking immediately prior to bed, and 26 percent yet to receive their first dental checkup. Maternal practices were also poor, with 34 percent brushing ≤1/day and 50 percent having never seen or last visiting a dentist over 5 years ago. Significant differences were seen in many practices between the major ethnic subgroups. Of children attending the school dental service, 22 percent were reported having at least one filling and/or extraction. In multivariable analyses, variables corresponding to mother’s toothbrushing frequency, child snacking or drinking prior to bed, and duration of breastfeeding were significantly associated with reported filling and/or extraction experience; but no difference was seen between the three major maternal ethnic subgroups.

Conclusions: Many mothers and their Pacific children have poor basic oral hygiene and dietary practices that increase the oral health risk in these children. Culturally appropriate and targeted strategies aimed at these modifiable practices need to be widely promoted so that the oral health burden carried by Pacific children can be reduced.