The state of our children’s dental health hit the headlines on the 13th July 2015.
Is there really a dental crisis that merits such headlines as?
- BBC – Child tooth removal ‘at crisis point’
- Telegraph and Argus – Stop ‘pussy footing around’ about children’s dental health crisis, councillor warns
- Independent – Stop the rot! Why thousands of British children are having their teeth taken out in hospital
Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty, prompted these disturbing headlines when he told The Sunday Times:
“We are reaching crisis point in terms of the number of children needing to go into the dental hospitals for full-blown general anaesthetics for extraction.”
Some 46,500 UK children are admitted to hospital each year to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic, the Sunday Times reported
Despite being almost entirely preventable, tooth decay is the most common cause of hospital admissions among 5 to 9 year old children, according to the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.
British Medical Association (BMA) says advice is not enough, and has called for a 20 per cent tax on sugary drinks. Nearly 26,000 children, aged five to nine, were admitted to hospital in England in 2013-14, up 14% from 2011, with tooth decay.
Despite this increase the BMA’s proposal of a sugary drinks tax was promptly ruled out by the government.
Claire Donnelly, a caring and health conscious mum, was mystified to hear her five year old son had to have a tooth removed due to tooth decay. Claire had taken her son’s oral hygiene routine seriously and had carefully supervised his teeth brushing and limited his sugar intake. She assumed that her son must have inherited some kind of genetic dental problem; but that wasn’t the case.
It turns out that the likely culprit was dried fruit. As Claire learned too late, raisins, dried apricots and other dried fruits, not only contain sugar but have a tendency to stick to teeth for prolonged periods.
Experts said many families remained ignorant of the levels of damage which could be caused by sugar, often having little idea that drinks such as “fruit smoothies” were bad for the teeth.
20% of parents think that fruit smoothies are good for their children’s teeth. How wrong could they be?
The survey of 2,000 families found that overall one in seven children had not had a check-up by the time they reached the age of eight. That’s one million under eights that don’t have their teeth checked.
The poll by My Dentist, the UK’s largest dental group, found more than one in ten parents said getting time off work was stopping them taking their children to the dentist.
A national dental health survey, carried out every 10 years and last published in May, found almost half of eight-year-olds have signs of decay in their milk teeth.
However it did report an overall reduction in the number of cavities in children’s teeth over the last decade.
In response to the dramatic headlines, a Department of Health spokesman said: “Children’s teeth are dramatically healthier than they were 10 years ago; but it still needs to improve.”
“We are radically changing NHS dentistry, so that dentists will be paid for keeping the nations’ teeth healthy, rather than just for treating problems as they arise.”
“NHS dentistry is free for children and we strongly recommend parents take children for regular check-ups.”
Clearly there is much to be done to help our young ones keep their teeth in better health. Parents have to play their part in teaching them how to brush properly; educating themselves on what to avoid giving their children to eat and drink; and ensuring regular dental checkups are started early and maintained.
I will leave the last word to the good professor Nigel Hunt of the Royal College of Surgeons; the guy whose outcry resulted in such dramatic headlines.
“It is absolutely intolerable that in this day and age, in a civilised country, children are having so many teeth out for decay, which is over 90% preventable.”
“We need to stop talking and have action to bring several bodies together – the Royal College of Surgeons, Public Health England, NHS England, government and industry to make sure we improve all aspects of oral health.”