Nearly a Quarter of Five-Year-Old Kids Have Cavities
That is the shocking figure for tooth decay in UK children and who are about to start primary school. While nearly a quarter have tooth decay, most have an average of over three teeth that have been filled, or even worse which are missing. Some 17,000 have such badly decayed teeth that they have been removed, sometimes under general anesthetic which requires a hospital visit. Previous studies have found that one in seven toddlers has tooth decay and this is often due to parents failing to realize the importance of brushing kids teeth or simply neglecting to find the time.
These types of statistics are very sad because tooth decay is generally preventable but remains the most common oral disease found in kids, and in young adults. Now, experts are trying to focus on investing in oral health education. They believe much more needs to be done, so parents and their children understand the impact of sugary foods on teeth and the importance of caring for their teeth at home. Experts are extremely concerned that parents don’t understand the importance of brushing children’s teeth or realize that you need to start oral hygiene very early. Unfortunately, they are seeing children as young as five or six who need to have multiple teeth removed at the same time.
During one study researchers found that out of 1400 parents, just three-quarters brush their children’s teeth twice a day. Because of the 25% who fail to brush their children’s teeth regularly, 14% of three-year-old’s have decayed, filled or missing teeth. It’s understandable that some people feel overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood, especially if they juggle a full-time job at the same time. However, the implications of early childhood decay can be severe.
The Problems with Early Childhood Tooth Decay
When a very young child has tooth decay or needs teeth extracted, it can affect their development. Young children need their teeth, so they can learn to talk properly, enabling them to communicate with others, and to learn essential social skills.
Young kids need teeth to eat a nutritious diet. It’s very important that little children obtain sufficient nutrients through eating a varied diet, so they can grow and develop normally. Additionally, the younger child can get used to eating a varied diet, the less likely they are to become a picky eater. When a child has problems with tooth decay and is potentially in pain or discomfort, they may not even want to eat or will learn to associate mealtimes or certain foods with pain.
Being in pain due to a toothache is unpleasant at any age and makes it difficult to concentrate. School-age children may develop problems with learning, or they might need to miss a significant amount of school time due to extended dental appointments. Even young children can feel self-conscious about their appearance, and especially if they have teeth that are decayed or broken down or which are missing entirely.
Preventing Tooth Decay in Young Children
It can sometimes be challenging to look after a young child’s teeth, especially if they don’t want to have them brushed. However, the sooner you start to get your child into a routine of oral care, the easier it will become. You can even begin cleaning their mouth before they get any teeth, gently wiping their gums with a clean washcloth or damp piece of gauze after each meal.
When their first tooth pokes through the gums, it’s time to book an appointment with a good pediatric dentist. Your child’s first dental appointment is a significant milestone and will hopefully mark the beginning of a lifetime of healthy teeth and excellent oral health.
Don’t underestimate the importance of this first visit because it is about far more than just checking your child’s teeth and jaws. Although your dentist will want to look inside your child’s mouth, usually while they sit on your lap, a large part of this first visit is to provide you with lots of essential information. Pediatric dentists know that many people, and especially first-time parents are unsure, and may feel a bit bewildered about how to look after their child’s teeth. Your kid’s dentist can provide detailed instructions and lots of practical help on how to clean their teeth at home, as well as information on how to avoid early childhood tooth decay.
Diet and Its Effect on Dental Health
Diet plays an enormous part in dental health and especially in young children. Often the teeth of young children are covered by tooth enamel which is softer than in adult teeth and more easily eroded. If a child is fed a diet of lots of sugary foods and drinks, and especially in between meals, then their teeth are more likely to become decayed. One of the problems is that parents are often confused as to which foods are healthy for teeth, and which are best avoided.
Fruit juice is an excellent example because, on the face of it, juice seems to be very healthy, but if you read the labels on any carton of fruit juice, you’ll see it contains a massive amount of sugar. Unfortunately, it’s a widespread mistake for parents to give their child a drink of juice in a bottle or sippy cup that will be enjoyed by the child over a period of several hours, continually coating their teeth in sugar. Plain water is a far healthier choice, and fruit juice is best kept to a very occasional treat when it should be consumed as part of a main meal.
Other foods that look good for teeth, but which really aren’t, include dried fruit, and cereal or granola bars. Dried fruit is bad for teeth because the natural sugars in fresh fruit have been concentrated as the fruit is dehydrated. What’s worse is that dried fruit tends to be very sticky, and a small pack of snack raisins can remain stuck around teeth for many hours. Cereal or granola bars can contain lots of sticky sugars, dried fruits or even chocolate chips.
Once you know the potential pitfalls of looking after children’s teeth, then their dental care should become far more straightforward. You’ll also find your kid’s pediatric dentist, and the dental team at their dental office is always willing to help and offer advice. It’s well worth making full use of this valuable source of information.