Improving the Oral Health of Children

An interesting article titled “Childhood lasts a lifetime” written by Benjamin appears in the British Dental Journal (Apr. 20, 2018). The article discusses the epidemic of child tooth decay in the United Kingdom (UK) and that good oral health is important for children.

In the article the author states

“A child’s early years are crucial to her or his long-term mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. So it’s important to remember that everything we do affects children; how we treat them, how we speak to them, what we feed them, how we teach them to take care of their bodies. All of this matters to help children to develop into fit and healthy adults.”

In the article the authors mentions some troubling statistics in the UK. One in four children suffer from tooth decay by the age of five and tooth removal is the primary reason children become admitted to a hospital. Further 170 children every day are put under general anesthesia to have multiple decayed teeth removed.

The author points out how oral health has a big impact on a child’s mental health. For example, a child’s smile has an impact on their confidence which can impact their likelihood to socialize with others. If children have tooth or mouth disease they will be less likely to smile. Oral health can also impact how a child performs in school. If a kid has to have a tooth extracted they may miss several days of school.

The author also points out how a child’s experience at the dentist can impact their future oral health. For example if a child has a tooth extracted at a young age but has an unpleasant experience they may be less likely to go back to the dentist in later age.

The author points out that at the time of writing the article 4 in 10 children in the UK did not see any dentist within the last 12 months. This is troubling because in the UK everyone has access to the National Health Service (NHS) which provides for free dental checkups for children up to age 18. Even so it is acknowledged that many parents of these children may have trouble getting placed into a dental practice due to waiting lists.

child smile teeth - Improving the Oral Health of Children
This image is from Pixabay and has a Pixabay license

In the article the author urges a call to action for the government to further improve oral health initiatives. He also believes dentists have a role to play along with other health professionals to provide information about good oral health. The author further believes parents have a role to play in preventing giving their children too much sugar in foods and drinks. The author later states

“I truly believe the good news is that child tooth decay is a problem that we can and will solve if we work together and get some simple things right, to prevent the appalling suffering, anguish, loss of school time, depression and sheer unnecessary pain our children are having to go through today.”

It appears that many different parties have a role to play in helping to improve the oral health of children. Unfortunately as it stands too many children are having teeth extracted at a young age and too many children are experiencing unpleasantness at the dentist at a young age which can harm their future oral health.

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