Survey reveals parental disregard of oral health in children

PARENTAL disregard for basic principles of oral health in children is leading to unnecessary hospital admissions and costing the NHS £22 million a year.

A new survey published by dental group My Dentist has revealed how dental disengagement has left over 1 million children aged eight and under still waiting for their first trip to the dentist. Additionally, over 700,000 children who have been to the dentist have had at least one filling, each at a cost of £31 to the Department of Health.

The survey of over 2,000 UK-based parents showed that many failed to take their children to the dentist early enough, with 57 per cent of respondents not going until after their first birthday. Only a quarter (26 per cent) of children brush their teeth for the recommended two minutes per session.

The survey also revealed significant parental ignorance of basic oral health messages, with 20 per cent incorrectly believing that fruit smoothies are good for their child’s teeth and 13 per cent saying that fluoride is bad. Nearly a third (31 per cent) were unaware of free NHS treatments available to kids, such as fluoride varnishing.

The British Dental Association is calling for "real partnership and commitment to solve the burgeoning crisis" having pointed out that tooth decay is currently the leading cause of hospital admissions among children, with the 46,500 children admitted annually to have teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: "Tooth decay is the leading cause of hospital admissions among our nation’s children, and parents, teachers and policymakers need to take their share of responsibility.

"We have to get children into the habit of good oral health, and that will require partnership and commitment on all sides. It requires an end to mixed messages. We have to be clear that sugar hurts mouths as well as waistlines. We are dealing with preventable disease, and it’s vital that parents understand the regular free check-ups are the best defence.

"Policymakers have demonstrated a shocking indifference to the nation’s oral health. Yet in Scotland we’ve seen real innovation. The Childsmile programme has reached out to nurseries and primary schools to turn oral health problems around. Already it has cut NHS treatment bills, and shown that dental disease and deprivation don’t have to go hand in hand."

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