Make a meal of it!

The Child Dental Health Survey of 2003 shows a marked increase in the oral health of children compared to 1983 with fewer 15 year olds requiring fillings and children generally visiting the dentist at a younger age, with 31% of five year olds visiting the dentist before the age of two. Despite this improvement, 16% of children have been reported to require either an extraction or a filling before the age of five. With one in ten children under the age of five having experienced a dental extraction, and 5% of children having had general anaesthetic for tooth removal, there is still every reason to encourage further improvements to child oral health.

You would be excused for thinking that having a baby tooth pulled is not a huge concern given that the adult teeth will come through in a matter of years anyway. However, it has become more apparent that the consequential loss of a baby tooth due to decay has more of an impact on the developing dentition than one might think: children who have poor oral hygiene habits at a younger age are more likely to carry them through to adulthood; decaying baby teeth can damage the development of the underlying adult tooth, causing it to erupt with an unhealthy (and unfixable) anatomy.

Not only this, but orthodontists are warning more frequently now that the premature removal of a baby tooth can have a dramatic impact on the eruption of the subsequent tooth, increasing the need for braces in the future. This is particularly relevant when the most posterior (back) baby tooth is removed too early; the first adult teeth to erupt are the first molars, which come through just behind the last baby tooth. When this baby tooth is missing, the adult tooth often erupts too far forward, resulting in crowding when the remaining teeth come through.

For these reasons, not to mention that unpleasant dental experiences in childhood often result in dental phobia, the BDA (British Dental Association) have recently launched their ‘Make a Meal of it’ campaign aiming to encourage the public to take a stand against the barriers to further child oral health improvement. With a particular emphasis on sweet marketing at checkouts, vending machines and large portions of sweets at the cinema, the campaign aims to increase awareness and encourage people to challenge the messages given by the above.

Helping parents safeguard their children, the campaign has listed a few ways to reduce the risk of decay:

  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Limit sugary foods to mealtimes, thereby resisting the poor influence of supermarkets, vending machines and cinemas
  • Provide plain water or milk to drink
  • Reduce the frequency of snacking
  • Have regular visits to the dentist

The BDA claims that ‘poor dental health amongst children in the UK is unacceptable and avoidable’ and are requesting your support. To get involved visit for ideas; the BDA are encouraging people to sign their e-petition, visit their Facebook page and use #MAMOI on Twitter.

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