PUBLISHED IN TCI WEEKLY NEWS
18th October 2014
I was interested to read that a new survey conducted in the UK, found that tooth decay affects over 10% of three-year-olds, a number which rises to 25% by the age of five. Public Health England researchers checked the teeth of nearly 54,000 children at nurseries, children’s centres and playgroups and found 12% of children had evidence of tooth decay. These youngsters had an average of three teeth that were decayed, missing or filled. Although we don’t have the studies done here, this is definitely something that I see here in Turks and Caicos, particularly amongst certain segments of our community and there are definitely some things we can learn from the UK.
Researchers in UK identified a particular type of decay known as early childhood caries, which is something I see amongst some of our children here. Bottle caries affects the upper front teeth and spreads quickly to other teeth. It is linked to the consumption of sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups and this is something I see commonly given to young babies here in the form of chocolate milk, sugar water or Milo.
The recommendation is that parents should give their children sugary foods and drinks in smaller quantities and less often. It is also urged that sugar should not be added to weaning foods or drinks. Parents and carers should also start brushing children’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appeared and supervise their brushing until they the age of seven or eight (or older if you know your child is unreliable.)
Sandra White, director of dental public health at PHE in UK, said while there had been significant improvements in oral health over the years, the findings were worrying.
“Tooth decay is an entirely preventable disease which can be very painful and even result in a child having teeth removed, which is stressful for children and parents alike.”
Dr Christopher Allen, of the British Dental Association, said: “Parents and carers may feel that giving sugar-sweetened drinks is comforting, but in reality it’s more likely to cause pain and suffering as it is the major cause of tooth decay in toddlers. It’s never too soon to take your toddler to the dentist – ideally no later than 18 months – because dentists can identify and treat tooth decay at the earliest stage and advise parents on tooth brushing and prevention.”
These recommendations are as relevant to parents here in TCI as they are to those in the UK and I would encourage all parents to try to follow them.