Smile!

Taking place between May 20 and June 20, National Smile Month is a great opportunity for us to learn a little more about our own oral health, the oral health of our children and find out just why it is so important to an overall feeling of well-being. Here are some facts and tips on how to keep our teeth health.

Over three in ten children starting school have tooth decay.

First teeth are important.  They help your child eat healthy food, speak clearly and feel confident.  Start to brush your baby’s gums with a soft toothbrush at bath time, or even let your baby have a go themselves as long as you supervise them. This establishes brushing their teeth as part of the washing routine.

Start brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks through (usually at around six months, but it can be earlier or later). It’s important to use a fluoride paste as this helps prevent and control tooth decay. 

Supervise tooth brushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it. From the age of seven or eight they should be able to brush their own teeth, but it’s still a good idea to watch them now and again to make sure they brush properly and for the whole two minutes.

It is recommended that children should go to the dentist with their parents as soon as possible. You should then take them regularly, as often as your dentist recommends. This will let them get used to the noises, smells and surroundings and prepare them for future visits.

One in three children aged 12 will have visible dental decay

The main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar or acid in the diet, but how often it is eaten or drunk. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods to mealtimes only. If you want to give your child a snack, try to stick to cheese, vegetables and fruit. Other good snacks include breadsticks, crackers, rice cakes and plain popcorn. Try to limit dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to the teeth. Fizzy drinks contain acids that can affect the enamel on your child’s teeth, making it thinner.

25 per cent for adults don’t brush their teeth twice a day

Brush your teeth for at least two minutes in the morning before breakfast and last thing at night before you go to bed using fluoride toothpaste

Never brush your teeth straight after a meal as it can damage your teeth, especially if you’ve had fruit, fizzy drinks, wine or any other food that contains acid. This is because tooth enamel is softened by the acid and can be worn away by brushing. Instead, wait an hour after a meal before brushing your teeth to give your saliva chance to neutralise the acid.

Poor oral health is not just about toothache and decay. It has a much wider impact on general bodily health than you may think. Research over the past decade has revealed growing evidence linking poor oral health to serious health conditions.  

Brushing twice a day

  • 25 per cent of adults don’t brush twice a day, including a third of men
  • People who only brush once a day are a third more likely to develop tooth decay

Children’s oral health

  • Over three in every ten children starting school (31 per cent) have tooth decay
  • A third of children aged 12 have visible dental decay

Cleaning habits

  • 42 per cent of adults use just a toothbrush and toothpaste for their oral care
  • 31 per cent of adults use mouthwash
  • 21 per cent of adults use dental floss

Visits to the dentist

  • 50 per cent of adults say they visit their dentist every 6 months
  • 21 per cent of adults say they visit their dentist annually
  • Visiting the dentist annually reduces the risk of tooth decay by 60 per cent
  • Nearly one in ten people in the UK aren’t registered with a dentist.

Reasons for visiting the dentist

  • 27 per cent of adults only visit their dentist when they have a problem
  • 9 per cent of adults visit their dentist with pain
  • 90 per cent of visits to the dentist are for check-ups
  • The UK is one of the most likely nations in Europe to visit their dentist for a check-up – ranked second (72%), after the Netherlands (79%).
  • Teeth/Smiles are rated the second most important attraction feature, after personality, and the most important body feature surveyed (including body shape, height, hair, face and eyes).

Which dentist?

  • 70 per cent of adults use the NHS for their dental care
  • 27 per cent of adults use a private dentist
  • 32 per cent of adults use a private dentist because they can’t find an NHS one

Tooth loss and dentures

  • 6 per cent of adults have no natural teeth
  • 74 per cent of all adults have had a tooth extracted
  • 19 per cent of adults have full or partial dentures

Fillings and other treatments

  • 84 per cent of all adults have at least one or more fillings
  • Each adult has an average of 7 fillings

Other oral health indicators

  • 31 per cent of adults have tooth decay
  • 66 per cent of adults have visible plaque
  • 29 per cent of adults suffer from regular dental pain

Affordability

  • 88 per cent of adults have no dental insurance
  • 63 per cent of adults use NHS dentists for cost reasons
  • 19 per cent of adults have delayed their treatment due to cost
  • 26 per cent of adults said cost has an effect on the type of dental treatment they opt for 19 per cent said that they had delayed dental treatment for the same reason

Dental Phobia

  • 15 per cent of adults who have been to a dentist suffer from extreme dental anxiety.
  • Visiting the Dentist is ranked number one (22%) for making people nervous, closely followed by heights (19%). Nearly 10 times as many people (22%) are nervous of visiting their dentists, compared to their doctor (2%).

Go to NHS Choices to read more about caring for children’s teeth.  or speak to your local Children’s Centre Support Worker or Health Visitor.

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