North East Children As Young As 3 With Tooth Decay

30 September 2014, 07:10

10% of three year olds in the North East are suffering from decayed, missing or filled teeth.

New figures by Public Health England found Sunderland was the worst affected area in our region - with around 18% of young people there affected.

The regional figure of 10.1% was lower than the average for England (11.7%) and equal third lowest of nine regions in the country.

But the large majority of three-year-olds - 88% nationally and almost 90% in the North East - have no decay at all.

Dr Roberta Marshall, director of PHE's North East Centre, said:
'This reflects trends of significant improvements in dental health since the introduction of fluoride toothpaste in 1976.

While there have been significant improvements to the nation's oral health, some areas still experience problems with tooth decay among young children.

Tooth decay is an entirely preventable disease that can be painful - and even result in teeth being removed under general anaesthetic, which is stressful for children and parents alike.

Thankfully, tooth decay in children can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle and guidance from parents and carers.'

PHE is encouraging parents/carers of young children to:
* Reduce both the amount and how often sugary foods and drinks are given

* Not add sugar to weaning foods or drinks

* Aim to introduce drinking from a free-flow cup from six months of age and stop feeding from a bottle from 12 months of age

* Start brushing children's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears and supervise their tooth brushing until they are seven or eight years old. Brush children's teeth twice daily, including just before bed, using a fluoride toothpaste

* From the age of three use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, for younger children a smear

* Use only sugar-free medicines.

It is also important to take children to the dentist, which is free of charge, as the dentist will be able to advise about how to keep teeth and gums healthy.

In some cases a particular type of decay called 'early childhood caries' was found by the survey.

This affects the upper front teeth, spreading rapidly to other teeth and is related to the consumption of sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups. There is a much higher risk of tooth decay if sugary drinks are given to children so they should be avoided.

Breast feeding provides the best nutrition for babies and the best drinks for young children aged 1 to 2 are full fat milk and water and from two years old, semi-skimmed milk and water as long as they are good eaters.

This is the first time a survey of this age group has been carried out nationally so the findings form a baseline from which PHE can continue to collect data.