Healthy Family - Dorset

This series of 'Healthy Family' features aims to highlight preventative health conditions amongst families.

This feature explains the importance of good dental care...



Also in the Healthy Family Series:

The State of the Nation's Health

Building a Child's Confidence

Help your Child get Active

Healthy Eating Habits for Families

Head's Up on Health Care

A Good Night's Sleep



Good Dental Health



Dental decay is the primary reason that children aged 5-9 are admitted to hospital in the UK. Public Health England divulged that 25,812 children aged 5-9 were admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of dental caries (dental decay) within a twelve-month period in 2013/14.

That’s quite a shocking statistic but even more shocking when you realise that dental decay is almost entirely preventable. Public Health England also state that almost half of all eight year olds in the UK are suffering from tooth decay.


What causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is caused by plaque. Plaque is formed when bacteria that are already present in the mouth combine with small food particles and saliva to become a sticky substance that covers the teeth. When not removed, plaque erodes the outer layers of the tooth.

One of the main reasons for the increase in dental decay in Britain is the increased ingestion of sugar. In January 2016, British health officials revealed that the average 5-year-old in the UK was consuming their own body weight in sugar annually. Most children in the UK are devouring three times the recommended daily intake of sugar.

Cakes, jam, biscuits and chocolate are obvious sources of sugar, so many parents replace them with healthy alternatives such as fruit, fruit juice and smoothies. Unfortunately, these alternatives are not as healthy as they appear – fruit juice is high in sugar, as are smoothies.

Fresh fruit, while definitely a healthy alternative to confectionary, should be carefully monitored. Dried fruit, such as raisins, are a popular snack because they’re ‘healthy’ but their sugar content is such that your child may as well be eating a chocolate bar. Keep an eye on ingredients labels for anything ending in ‘ose’ such as fructose, glucose, lactose and sucrose - all sugar

If left untreated tooth decay can lead to cavities (holes in the teeth), gum disease or abscesses. Also, untreated tooth decay may lead to loss of teeth either through extraction or worse, rotting.


Signs of Tooth Decay

  • Toothache – a pain which can be mild to severe.

  • Sensitivity – especially to hot or cold food and beverages.

  • Bad breath.

  • A ‘funny’ taste in the mouth.


Prevention is Better than Cure

The good news is that tooth decay is almost entirely preventable and you don’t need to invest a great deal of time or money in that prevention. Dentists will tell you that as soon as a baby’s first tooth appears parents should start to brush it. Easier said than done in many cases but part of the reason for this is to get your child used to a toothbrush.

Similarly, you need to get your child to become familiar with the dentist early on so there is no unnecessary fear attached when they go for a check-up, or a procedure.

Adult teeth usually start to appear around age 6 and should all be in place by age 13, although different children’s teeth will develop at different times and rates. By age 6 your child should be in the habit of brushing their teeth at least twice a day. You don’t even need to buy that ‘special’ children’s toothpaste – as long as there are sufficient quantities of fluoride in the family toothpaste everyone can use it.

Children will however need a ‘special’ toothbrush. Get one with a small head and soft bristles. Use small circular movements and do one tooth at a time. Brush the back of the teeth gently towards and over the gums. You/your child should spend approximately two minutes brushing the teeth, at bedtime and at least one other time during the day.

You can also buy Plaque Disclosing Tablets which highlight plaque and acts as a prompt to keep brushing until all the plaque is gone. Your child should be able to brush their teeth unsupervised by the age of seven. Don’t forget to replace your child’s toothbrush at regular intervals.


For more information…

The British Dental Health Foundation is the UK’s leading oral health charity. Its Dental Helpline offers free impartial expert advice on 01788 539780 or visit







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