The papers have been full of statistics from Public Health England’s latest data on hospital tooth extractions for children. It’s encouraging to read that generally speaking the oral health of our children is getting better. However, it’s sad to hear that, for children aged between 6 to 10 years old, having to have teeth taken out owing to decay is still the most common reason for going into hospital.
Tooth decay problems in young children aren’t just confined to the fact of having to undergo a hospital procedure. Children are missing days of school. They may struggle with eating, drinking and sleeping whenever their tooth decay has caused them pain.
Decay is a preventable problem
The most frustrating thing about this for me is to think that the vast majority of these extractions could be avoided as tooth decay is almost entirely preventable.
Fluoridation of our drinking water has done a lot to improve the health of the nation’s teeth. However, our tendency to eat high sugar food, washed down with sugary drinks, means our teeth really don’t get a break. Babies aren’t born craving sugar. However from toddlerhood onwards, many young children are encouraged or ‘rewarded’ by adults with sweets, biscuits, chocolate and cake.
With Easter and its appeal to the chocoholic in all of us fast approaching, there’s no better time to take stock of your family’s sugar intake. According to the PHE data, children are still consuming the equivalent of around 8 sugar cubes more than the recommended daily limit. They often eat 11g of it just at breakfast. As well as tooth decay, there is an increased risk of obesity and associated illnesses.
When I discuss children’s oral health with my patients I remind them that the solution is simple.
- Cut down on sugar. The NHS Change4life website has some great hints for sugar swaps
- Don’t let children ‘graze’ on sugary snacks and drinks between meals as this means their teeth are under constant attack.
- Supervise children brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Start the brushing routine as soon as their first teeth appear when they are just babies.
- Have regular dental check-ups, as often as your dentist recommends.