Good habits needed from an early age

March 8, 2016

We all know that it’s important that good habits are taught to children at a young age. Schools, health visitors and youth organisations are all keen to work with parents to help build healthy routines. However, something is going wrong when we start talking about teeth. Statistics collated by the Health and Social Care Information Centre are representing an alarming picture of the oral health of England’s children.

Since the year 2011-2012, there has been a steady year on year increase in the number of children requiring tooth extraction due to tooth decay. In fact, over those four years, there has been a total of 128,558 cases of children needing a tooth extraction. In the year 2014-2015 a total of 33,781 cases were recorded, which is a rise of 3% in comparison to the previous year’s figure. All of these extractions occurred in children aged ten and under. This equates to an almost 10% increase over the four years.

Professor Nigel Hunt of the Royal College of Surgeons commented that this increase was ‘unacceptable’ and explained that ‘the need for tooth extraction continues to be the number one reason why five to nine-year-old children are admitted to hospital.’

So where are things going wrong? The figures recorded showed that there were geographic differences in the number of tooth extractions that were required. Areas of deprivation saw high numbers of cases recorded than those areas that were less deprived. This could indicate that better education about oral hygiene, or improved access to dental services, is needed in some areas. Chief Dental Officer for NHS England, Sara Huntley, also questioned whether the number of sugary drinks consumed by children in England may be a factor. Although there is an increasing awareness about the dangers of sugar in food, people are less aware of the dangers of sugar in drinks. Clearer labelling may make it easier for consumers to make informed choices.

Tooth decay is caused when plaque builds up around the gum line, and in hard to reach areas on and around your teeth. Plaque can harden over time to form tartar. Both plaque and tartar contain acids which can dissolve the hard, protective enamel on your teeth, therefore creating holes and cavities. Over time, these cavities can mean that fillings are required, or in the worse cases, teeth may need to be removed.

To prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar, it is recommended that we brush our teeth twice a day, for two minutes each time. It is important to use floss or interdental brushes to clean the gaps between your teeth, and prevent plaque build-up in those hard to reach areas. In addition, by avoiding sugary food and drinks, you will be reducing the exposure of your teeth to the acids that can increase plaque formation.

It’s important that as a country, we focus our attentions on increasing the knowledge and skills of our children to start turning these statistics around, in order to start to see a decrease in this figure.

For more information on the recent survey results, and about oral health, please visit the recent BBC article:

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