A study by Public Health England has shown that more than 1 in 10 children under 3 have visible signs of tooth decay.
The report, which is the first survey of its kind, has shown that 12% of the children examined at private and public nurseries have some kind of dental health issue. The report looked for plaque build-up, cavities, and filled or missing teeth. It also showed that children who are affected had on average 3.07 decayed teeth.
The number of children suffering from tooth decay varied significantly by region, varying from as little as two per cent to more than one in three (34 per cent) across the country.
Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, welcomed the survey, and encouraged parents and education workers to take on vital oral health information.
Dr Carter said: "It is the first time we have seen the progress of oral health development from birth through to starting school, and the overall results are encouraging.
"Almost nine in ten three year olds are getting the right oral health routine at a crucial age of their development."
Correlation between childhood tooth decay and problems in the future
Studies have shown that children who suffer tooth decay are more likely to suffer long standing dental health problems.
Baby teeth keep a space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the teeth beside it can drift into the empty space. When it’s time for the adult teeth to come in, there may not be enough room. This can make the teeth crooked or crowded.
In addition, children with a healthy dental routine get into the habit of looking after their teeth and tend to carry it forward into their later life. This means they are better placed to avoid dental issues such as tooth loss, gum disease and mouth cancer. Avoiding this means lessening the need for dental implants later in life.
How to prepare children for lifelong dental health
The report recommended that in order to keep children’s teeth healthy, parents should:
- Reduce both the amount and how often sugary foods and drinks are given to children,
- Do not add sugar to weaning foods or drinks,
- Aim to introduce drinking from a free-flow cup from six months of age and stop feeding from a bottle from 12 months of age,
- Start brushing children's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears and supervise their tooth brushing until they are seven or eight years old. Brush children's teeth twice daily, including just before bed, using a fluoride toothpaste,
- From the age of three, use only a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, for younger children a smear,
- Use only sugar-free medicines.
The full report can be viewed here: PHE report on oral health of 3 year old children
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