Tooth extraction is the number one reason for hospital admissions for 5 – 9 year olds. We look at why this is and how to avoid the problem becoming worse.
The last thing a parent wants to hear at the dentist is that their child needs to be referred to hospital for an extraction. Unfortunately it is an increasingly common experience. Nearly one quarter of 5 year olds have obvious tooth decay according to Public Health England, although the real figure is higher because not all decay is obvious (the iceberg effect). Some dental professionals are even calling it an epidemic.
So why is tooth decay in children leading to so many extractions? This is because at young ages in the primary dentition (baby teeth) decay progresses rapidly. Bacteria on the teeth transform sugar into acids, which soften the enamel before making a cavity and infecting the tooth. If left untreated the bacteria will infect the nerve inside the tooth and cause pain and possible swelling.
Yet tooth decay is entirely preventable through reducing sugar consumption, regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste, routine dental visits for checks, fluoride varnish and fissure sealant application. It’s even thought that not sharing spoons with little ones can help stop the transfer of bacteria that can cause tooth decay! Basically prevention is better than cure.
Routine visits to the dentist with your children is key and gets them into the habit of going. The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry of which I am a member are campaigning for a dental check by 1 year old for all children. Meanwhile Public Health England has launched the Children’s Oral Health Improvement Board to provide some welcome national leadership.
Here are my practical tips
* Brush as soon as your baby gets their first tooth. Children need to be supervised by the parents when brushing their teeth to ensure they are brushing properly
* Do it twice a day - morning and night - for about two minutes. No food or drink other than water to be taken after the night time brushing.
* Be aware of the frequency of sugar intake. Sucking on a sippy cup that contains fruit juice, milk, or any drink containing natural sugars, for long periods of time, can leave sugars and acids on your child's teeth. Have your child rinse with water right after and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing.
* Flouride toothpaste is important, but use one that is appropriate for your child’s age. Baby and toddler toothpaste tends not to contain fluoride - they swallow it. For older children, the fluoride content tends to be lower than adult toothpaste.
* Use only a smear of toothpaste if your child is younger than three. Older children should use a pea-sized blob.
* Register your child at the dentist. Here at Measham Dental we operate a bespoke child plan at £2.81/month to give them a great start on the road to lifelong oral health.