Children are at risk of developing tooth decay, which leads to tooth loss, as soon as they gain their first teeth. To protect your child’s teeth, this article highlights how to improve your child’s dental health to prevent tooth decay.
Causes of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in plaque metabolises dietary sugars and produces acids in the mouth. These acids destroy the hard tissues of the tooth and more frequent acid attacks weaken the tooth surface, causing a hole or cavity wall to form which leads to pain and infection.
Children’s Tooth Decay & Dental Health Statistics
These shocking findings from Public Health England’s 2015 national dental epidemiology survey shed light on the state of children’s dental health in the UK:
- Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children.
- 25% of 5-year-olds experienced tooth decay with an average of 3 or 4 teeth being affected.
- The majority of tooth decay in children under 6 was left untreated.
- There were 7,926 episodes of children under 5 having 1 or more teeth extracted in hospital because of tooth decay.
- 25% of 5-year-olds have tooth decay when they start school.
- An average of 3 days of school were missed due to dental issues.
- 67% of parents reported that their child had been in pain from tooth decay.
- 38% of children had sleepless nights because of the pain.
- Over 63,000 children aged 0-19 were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions between 2014-15.
Statistics from the NHS and the Local Government Association also find that 170 children and teenagers a day are having operations in NHS hospitals to remove decayed teeth. There were nearly 43,000 multiple tooth extraction operations in patients under the age of 18 in 2016/17.
How To Prevent Tooth Decay in Children and Improve Oral Health
1. Brush Your Child’s Teeth
Brushing children’s teeth regularly and properly will reduce the bad bacteria and combat the acid attacks that cause tooth decay to ensure teeth are clean and protected.
- Your child’s teeth should be brushed for two minutes twice a day at night and in the morning with a fluoride toothpaste of 1350-1500 ppm.
- Ensure your child spits out the toothpaste but does not rinse as this will weaken the cleaning power of the toothpaste.
- Children under 3 years of age should use a smear of toothpaste that is less than 1000 ppm. Those aged 2-6 should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste that is more than 1000 ppm.
- You can supervise your child to make sure they cover all surfaces and brush their teeth thoroughly up until the age of 7 when they should be capable of brushing their own teeth.
For further information about the best ways to brush children’s teeth, read our blog post, Top Tooth Brushing Tips for Kids.
2. Reduce Sugar Consumption
Reduce your child’s consumption of sugary foods and drinks as it is sugar that causes tooth decay. It is not just how much sugar is in food that affects the teeth but also how often teeth are in contact with sugar.
- The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises that the average intake of free sugars up to 2 years should not exceed more than 5% of total dietary intake.
- Reduce the amount of foods and drinks in your child’s diet that contain free sugars. This includes foods that contain sugars added by the manufacturer or consumer such as biscuits and sweets. This also includes sugars that are naturally present in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.
- Swap sugary drinks like fizzy drinks, soft drinks, juice drinks, sweetened squash, and energy drinks for water or plain milk. Limit fruit juice and smoothies to 150 mls per day and consume them with a meal.
- For the first six months, babies only need to eat breast milk or formula milk. When your child starts eating solid food, encourage savoury food and check food labels for sugar in baby foods and baby drinks.
Cutting out sugar can be difficult so changing diet gradually and slowly can make this easier. For more help with cutting down on sugar, read our blog posts 5 Easy Ways to Slash Sugar from Your Diet and How to Stop Sugar Cravings.
3. Visit the Dentist Regularly
Visiting the dentist regularly will ensure that your child’s teeth and mouth are in top condition and will prevent any cavities from worsening and deteriorating into tooth decay and loss.
- Visit the dentist as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts at around 6 months old. Maintain these visits regularly to ensure good dental health.
- Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish. All children over the age of 3 can have the varnish applied to their teeth to reduce dental decay.
- NHS dental treatment is free for all children under 18 so there is no excuse not to maintain optimum oral health.
Children’s Dentistry at Bright & White
Improve your child’s dental health and prevent tooth decay with our dentistry services for children. We believe that it is highly important to learn about good oral hygiene from an early age and aim to make each visit to the dentist child-orientated, helping children to avoid the fears associated with dentistry in the future.