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Dental charity tells parents how to keep children out of hospital

The dental world is reeling from the recent news that tooth decay accounted for the vast majority of child hospitalisations last year. Almost 26,000 children aged five to nine had to be admitted to have teeth removed under anaesthetic, and a leading dental health charity has responded to the statistics with instructions for parents.

The British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), under the leadership of its chief executive Dr Nigel Carter, has issued a statement on the recent figures on child hospitalisations. The charity is not interested in simply condemning parents or society, however, as it has some potent advice for those looking after children.

“It is unacceptable that a child’s first visit to the dentist be made at a time when they are in pain and have multiple teeth needing extraction,” said Dr Carter. “This sets the child up for a potential lifetime of poor dental health and dental phobia.” In the charity’s views, there are three things parents can do differently.

The first is to make sure their children are brushing their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. While most parents would say their children brush regularly, fewer would be able to confidently state they always supervise them to ensure they are doing it properly.

Secondly, children should be taken to the dentist on a regular basis from around the age of two to two and a half. Finally, perhaps most importantly, parents should tightly regulate the amount of sugar consumed by their family. Without this third step, the other two might be pointless.

“The increase in consumption of sugary foods and drinks is one of the key reasons for dental decay,” Dr Carter said. The BDHF is of the opinion that if parents are not helping their children brush their teeth, taking them to the dentist and regulating how much sugar they eat, then it is “parental neglect in three areas, all of which are basic oral hygiene principles”.

Dentists should bear the BDHF’s advice in mind, potentially promoting it in their own practices. Dental marketing tactics, such as pamphlets and posters, can be used to teach parents how to best look after their children’s oral health.

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