UK children are at the bottom of the class when it comes to oral health education.
A survey recently carried out by YouGov has found that, when it comes to oral health education, children in the UK are at the bottom of the class, with less that one in three being taught about the importance of looking after their teeth and gums. Whilst some might say that this is a political issue and some subjects have to be prioritised over others, the reality is that this lack of early years oral care education can only have negative consequences for the children involved, as they grow up.
There is a saying that ‘old habits die hard’ and many of the habits that we have in our adult years stem from our early life. If teachers, and parents, aren’t teaching their kids about oral health care, there is every chance that they will neglect their teeth. Evidence of this can be found in the record number of children having to go to hospital to have teeth extracted.
What can we do as parents?
There are a number of routes that can be taken to start to address this problem. The most obvious one is political pressure. This can be hard work though and can take many years to achieve much progress at all. You could also try contacting your child’s school and raising this issue and there may be ways that teachers can incorporate elements of oral healthcare education into other lessons. Ultimately though, the only surefire way is to make sure that you teach them yourself, from an early age, how to look after their teeth and gums, and make sure that they understand why they need to do so.
This is easier said than done, of course. Not only can children be wilful and often see their parents as a source of authority that needs to be challenged (this seems to be less the case with teachers), but also, many parents are not always up to date with the latest dental care information.
Get the basics right
For parents, we recommend that you read up information from reliable sources such as the NHS etc about how to care for your child’s teeth properly. You may even find some information that can benefit your own regimen too. We would advise that you don’t use other ‘unofficial’ resources that are available on the internet. These may be well-intentioned but are not always accurate and may be out of date.
All children need to brush their teeth twice a day, both morning and last thing at night and parents have a role in making them do this. You may need to brush their teeth for them when they are very young, and should continue to supervise them until you are confident that they are able to do this correctly themselves.
Make sure that they use a fluoride toothpaste too as this helps to protect the enamel of their teeth. You may wish to allow them to choose a toothbrush that they like if this encourages them to brush. We recommend an electric brush as this makes it easier for them and avoids the need for too much ‘elbow grease’ and should result in better cleaning.
The professional role
Whilst parents play a particular role in a child’s oral health care, professionals also have an important role to play. At the Foxhall Dental Practice, Ipswich we emphasise that parents need to bring their child to see us for a check up every six months. We also strongly recommend that they see the hygienist too.
The hygienist at our Ipswich practice not only has a role to play in cleaning their teeth and gums, but an educational one too. Using child friendly methods, they will advise children how to take better care of their teeth. We do ask that parents encourage their children to ask any questions that they may have too. The more they feel involved in the process, the more they are likely to put any recommendation into practice. You are welcome to come into the hygienist’s room with your child, and this may prove helpful in reminding them what they are told, in case they ‘forget’ later on.
Most parents would probably accept that having children can be hard work. Generally, they do better when they have a routine, and this is beneficial for teaching them good oral health care. Because brushing should be done at regular times of the day, hopefully, over time, they will adopt that into their daily routines. That, combined with seeing a dentist and hygienist at our Ipswich practice should help them to have strong and healthy teeth well into their future.
To arrange to see a dentist or hygienist at the Foxhall dental Practice, please call us on 01473 258396.