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Dentists warn that children’s teeth are at crisis point

As a dental clinic in Bolton, we read a number of news articles with interest earlier this week concerning warnings from the Royal College of Surgeons about hospitals in England reaching a ‘crisis point’ managing the number of children being admitted for tooth removal under general anaesthetic.

The shocking figures from The State of Children’s Oral Health in England report by the Royal College of Surgeons (published in January 2015) show that nearly 26,000 children, aged five to nine, were admitted to hospital in England in 2013-14 with tooth decay. This is an increase of 14% from 2011. In fact, tooth decay is the most common reason for this age group to be admitted to hospital.

Older children are also showing signs of extensive tooth decay, although the Department of Health says that children’s dental health has improved over the last decade and that children’s teeth are ‘dramatically healthier’. Whatever the case, the stats above would suggest that there’s significant room for improvement.

From the report, it would appear that many parents have not registered their children with a dentist and that a growing number of children are not brushing their teeth properly. We know how challenging it can be to get a young – or even older – child to cooperate with brushing their teeth but the findings of the report show that a good oral health routine, both at home and including regular check-ups, is essential if our children are to keep their teeth into adulthood and old age. In fact, the Royal College of Surgeons has urged parents to continue supervising or even brushing their children’s teeth until the age of 14 in an attempt to combat this problem.

According to the report, tooth extractions for children under the age of 18 in 2012-13 cost the NHS £30 million. The report also found waiting lists of six to 12 months for extractions, during which time children were suffering incredible pain and having to take repeat courses of antibiotics.

The Child Dental Health Survey 2013 (a survey that takes place in the UK once every ten years) found that nearly one-third (31%) of five-year-olds and almost half (46%) of eight-year-olds have obvious signs of decay in their milk teeth.

Professor Hunt, Dean of the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty, has urged public health bodies to come together to support and improve all aspects of oral health. In his interview with The Sunday Times, which prompted this spate of news stories this week, Professor Hunt called for better food labelling and greater oral health education for parents, especially in areas of social deprivation where people are less likely to visit the dentist regularly.

Talking about food and fizzy drink labels, Professor Hunt commented: “In the same way as we have with smoking, that smoking can cause lung cancer and so on, we should be saying high levels of sugar will lead to not only poor oral health and decay but the impact on general health”.

Here at Harwood Dental, as a dentist in Bolton who welcomes patients of all ages, we agree that education about oral health is of paramount importance. Even adults can get into bad habits when it comes to cleaning their teeth properly and children need extra encouragement and support to brush those hard-to-reach places. Regularly visiting the dentist will help to keep your oral health on track. As adults can slip into bad habits when they go through their busy working day, we like to remind out adult patients about the importance of brushing and what their teeth will turn out like in the future if changes are not made.

We all know that children live in the moment and may not yet appreciate that having healthy teeth and gums is essential to their long-term health, well-being and even self-confidence. Although fantastic cosmetic dental treatments exist such as dental implants, dental veneers, teeth whitening treatments, cosmetic crowns and bridges, our message is very much a preventative one.

If you’re a parent reading this blog, we urge you to register your children with a dentist and to spread the word to your friends and family. The Royal College of Surgeons’ report shows that 90% of dental extractions on young children are avoidable.

Tips of good oral care:

  • Brush your teeth every night before bed and at least once during the day – you should wait at least an hour after eating to avoid brushing acid from your food into your teeth.
  • Brush for at least two minutes each time.
  • If you are going to let your children have sugary foods, encourage them to have them at a mealtime, e.g. as a pudding after dinner, so that your teeth get just one acid attack rather than lots of separate acid attacks throughout the day.
  • Place the head of your child’s toothbrush against their teeth, then tilt the bristle tips to a 45-degree angle against the gum line. Move the toothbrush in small circular movements, several times, over every surface of each tooth. Encourage your child to do this when brushing their own teeth. Don’t forget the inside surfaces!
  • Do not rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing as this just washes the protective toothpaste away. Just spit out any excess toothpaste.
  • Try to avoid eating or drinking for 30 minutes after brushing.
  • Change your toothbrush regularly so that the bristles remain firm and in the correct position.
  • Cut down on sugary foods and drinks.

If you are concerned about your child’s dental health or you have any questions at all about your own, including ‘brushing up’ on your oral hygiene routine (excuse the pun!), then we’ll be happy to help. Just give us a call on 01204 304 568 or fill out our contact form.

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