Dentists around the UK are calling on schools to pledge to go sugar-free in an urgent drive to prevent childhood tooth decay. Over 100,000 hospital admissions for children aged 10 and under in the last three years were as a result of tooth decay. The Faculty of Dental Surgery and the Royal College of Surgeons of England want all schools in the country to become sugar-free and that there should be supervised tooth brushing programmes introduced by 2022 to benefit children most at risk of tooth decay. Reducing sugar, regular dentist visits and a good toothbrushing routine are all crucial in helping to prevent childhood tooth decay
The NHS spends over £35 million on removing rotten teeth a year. While as many as nine out of ten children who have a tooth extracted is as a direct result of preventable tooth decay. Dentists are also urging the government to widen its soft-drinks tax to incorporate sugary dairy drinks. It also wants restrictions placed on all advertisements for products with high-sugar content. The Faculty of Dental Surgery says that while they have seen the state of children’s teeth improve in recent years across some parts of the country, there are still significant inequalities in different areas of the UK. Children living in particularly deprived areas of England are more likely to experience tooth decay.
Some children have at least three decayed teeth already by the time they start school. Meanwhile, hospital tooth extractions resulted in more than 60,000 school days missed last year alone. Tooth decay is more than just unsightly. It can also cause serious problems for a child’s sleeping and eating. But despite this and the free dental check-ups and treatments available for under-18s, 14% of children aged under 18 haven’t seen an NHS dentist in at least a year. Worryingly, this increases to 77% for children aged under two. Regular visits to a dentist or orthodontist allow children’s teeth to be monitored and any problems spotted early to prevent tooth loss, gum problems and overcrowding.
Children in the UK on average chomp on 8 sugar cubes more of sugar than is recommended. This excessive intake of sugar is not just causing children’s tooth decay but also contributes to type-2 diabetes and childhood obesity. Parents are encouraged to swap sugary drinks and snacks for no added sugar alternatives such as low-sugar yoghurts and juice drinks. Fruit juices and smoothies may contain some of their five a day, but they should just be consumed at mealtimes and restricted to only 150ml a day. A good toothbrushing routine from an early age is crucial to good oral hygiene and preventing tooth decay. Children should brush twice a day for two minutes and use an age-appropriate toothpaste that contains fluoride. Helping children get into the habit of brushing their teeth regularly will help them to keep their teeth and gums healthy and prevent tooth decay in the future.
When children practice good oral hygiene and avoid tooth decay in childhood, they are more likely to enjoy adulthood without the need for filings and other serious dental work. Keeping on top of children’s oral health by limiting sugar intake and good teeth brushing practices will help them to look forward to a future with healthy teeth and gums.