Alongside buying fresh school shoes, stocking up on stationery and getting children back into the habit of an early bedtime after the freedom of the holidays, going back to school is an ideal time to make sure that your child’s dental health is as good as it possibly could be. Unfortunately, research from across the globe indicates that there is a real crisis in children’s dental health:
- Research from California suggests that around a third of children there miss school due to dental health problems.
- By the age of six, around half of Australian children have decay in their baby teeth.
- In the US, nearly a fifth (19%) of 2 to 19-year-olds have untreated tooth decay.
- In the UK, the leading cause of hospitalisation for 5 to 9-year-olds is tooth extraction due to dental decay.
These sobering statistics make it clear that prompt action is required to enhance the dental well-being of our children!
Why is Dental Health a Priority?
If dental health is neglected and decay allowed to flourish, the result can be a whole host of health problems. Here are just some of the issues which failure to keep up appropriate dental hygiene or access timely dental care can cause:
- Pain: decay can cause inflammation, leading to pressure on the nerve in the tooth. Plaque can also contribute towards gum disease, causing sensitivity and pain when eating. The pain can be bad enough to disturb sleep, put children off their food, limit their ability to concentrate and cause them to be reluctant to talk.
- If untreated, plaque can eventually create a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause infection not just in a tooth, but also in the gum, or even the jaw bone. Possible complications include septicemia.
- Intrusive dental treatment. If a child is brought to a dentist with advanced decay, tooth extraction may be the only possible treatment route. Not only is extraction traumatic for children (and although generally a safe treatment option, it carries more risks than a filling), a gap can lead to other teeth shifting, potentially resulting in orthodontic problems later on.
- Setting up children with good dental health habits early on can really make a difference. Here are some habits which can really make a difference when it comes to minimising the risk of tooth decay in children:
Whilst most people understand the importance of ensuring that children brush their teeth twice a day, many still aren’t aware of the benefits of flossing.
Making flossing part of your daily dental routine could remove up to 40% more plaque than brushing alone. Painless and quick to do, some suitable dental floss is all that’s needed to get the job done! If children find dental floss difficult to use, an inter-dental brush (a very narrow brush which is able to penetrate between the gaps of the teeth) could be an excellent alternative.
Brush for Two minutes, Twice a Day
Make sure each child has a toothbrush that’s the right size and shape for their mouth. Not only are there tiny brushes for little mouths, there are also differently shaped heads available.
There is also the choice of a manual or electric toothbrush. Generally, electric brushes are more efficient, but the main thing is to find a brush that your child is happy and willing to use. An attractive timer can also help, or try brushing along to music which lasts around two minutes!
Eat a Good Diet!
Foods which contain high levels of sugar, particularly if they are foods which tend to stick to the teeth, are obviously going to increase the risk of plaque, as there is more risk of sugar (the food which the plaque bacteria eat) being left on the teeth. Remember to check that drinks are sugar-free, particularly between meals. Water is generally the best drink for children, for all sorts of reasons.
Use a Mouth-guard During Contact Sports
In the US, it was reported that between 13 and 39% of dental injuries were related to playing sport! A suitable mouth guard could go a long way to tackling this problem. Mouth guards should be chosen carefully and fitted correctly to ensure optimal comfort and grip. Wearing a mouth guard significantly reduces the risk of tooth, gum or jaw damage.
Visit the Dentist Twice a Year
Children especially should visit the dentist every six months. Children’s mouths change quickly as they grow, so leaving it longer between appointments could mean that early signs of a problem aren’t picked up.
As well as checking for any signs of decay, the dentist will also check that the teeth, gums, tongue and jaw are developing normally. If anything looks as if it may need further attention, the dentist will be able to put appropriate measures in place early on.
It’s usually the case that if a problem is spotted early on, it will be quicker and less invasive to put right than if it’s left until it has become more severe.
Going to the dentist regularly also helps children become familiar with visiting. This means that any apprehension initially felt begins to recede, minimising the risk of a dental phobia making dental treatment unpleasant, should it be required.
At a check-up appointment, dentists can also offer advice on correct brushing, provide a fluoride coating or similar preventative treatment and discuss other dental hygiene measures which can help teeth to stay in top condition for longer.
Research suggests that taking care of dental health can be as important as vaccinations or other preventative treatments. Why risk decay? Follow the easy steps outlined above to reduce the risk of decay and also to make sure that if tooth decay has occurred, it’s caught early and treated properly.
Regular dental care can really make a difference to your child’s health and well-being. Why not make this back-to-school occasion the one where you commit to making sure your child’s teeth enjoy the best care possible?