Oral health matters: why good childhood dental habits are so important
Almost 3,500 children aged five and under had rotten teeth taken out in hospital last year, as child tooth decay worsened in nearly a third of London. Almost 9 out of 10 hospital tooth extractions among children aged 0 to 5 are due to preventable tooth decay, according to data published by Public Health England (PHE).
Poor dental health, including tooth decay and gum disease, can impact a person’s general health and wellbeing and even has a link to heart disease and diabetes. The leading causes of dental diseases are entirely preventable, so it’s hugely worrying to see recent statistics on the number of children having tooth extractions due to tooth decay.
Tooth decay can cause problems with eating and sleeping, and results in at least 60,000 days being missed from school during the year for hospital extractions alone. Tooth decay could be prevented by cutting down on sugar and practicing good oral hygiene.
Meanwhile, figures released by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) show six in 10 children (58%) aged one to four did not see a dentist in 2018, while 41% of children under 17 years old didn’t attend an appointment.
The College has called for supervised tooth brushing sessions to be introduced in nurseries and primary schools across England, as similar initiatives in Scotland and Wales have already been successful in improving children’s oral health.
Many parents don’t realise that children should begin seeing their dentist as soon as their first teeth start coming through. By doing so dentists can not only spot any early warning signs, but also ensure that children grow up feeling comfortable with and used to regular visits, promoting long-term good oral health.
In 2018 NHS figures revealed that only 6.9 million children visited the dentist – just under 60 per cent of the total population of children.
The leading causes for dental diseases – such as diet and poor oral care – are entirely preventable so there is a real need to improve and encourage preventative measures, including promoting children’s oral health. While we are seeing a step in the right direction in raising awareness of the importance of child and adult oral health more still needs to be done.
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