Despite huge investment in NHS dental health services, recent figures have suggested that a third of UK 12 year olds suffer from tooth decay. The research, which was carried out by a team at Liverpool John Moores University, found that 1 in 3 12 year old children in the UK have decay.
Tooth decay is now one of the most common childhood illnesses, but it can be prevented by spending a few minutes each day cleaning the teeth. Emergency and paediatric units across the UK have reported an increase in the number of emergency dental cases in recent years and some dentists are seeing children as young as 2 years old with extensive decay.
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by the action of certain forms of bacteria, which react with sugar and subsequently attack the teeth. The bacteria produce plaque acids attack the protective enamel surfaces of the teeth; once the enamel is worn or damaged, the dentine portion of the tooth becomes exposed and the tooth becomes vulnerable to decay and acid erosion. When bacteria are allowed to collect in the mouth, more harmful acids are produced and the teeth are increasingly susceptible to decay.
A lack of oral hygiene and a poor diet are the major causes of tooth decay; if you don’t brush your teeth on a regular basis and use dental floss and mouthwash to remove additional traces of bacteria, plaque will start to form and the amount of bacteria in the mouth will increase, making the teeth vulnerable to decay.
Diet is important because certain foods, which have high sugar content, cause the bacteria to produce harmful plaque acids; the acids weaken the enamel surfaces of the teeth for up to an hour and during this period of time, the teeth are weak and susceptible to damage. As the enamel wears, the teeth become increasingly weak and cavities are likely to form.
Despite the seemingly worrying statistics, the proportion of children suffering from tooth decay has actually fallen by 4 percent in the last 8 years. In recent years, the government has ploughed money into NHS dental services and the health department has targeted children and tried to encourage families to live healthier, more active lifestyles. In reaction to the recent statistics, health officials claim they will continue to invest in children’s oral health and improve national standards.
In order to reduce the rates of tooth decay amongst children, experts are urging parents to get their kids involved in oral health from a young age; this involves encouraging a good daily oral hygiene routine, taking children for regular dental check-ups from an early age and providing them with a healthy, balanced diet. A good oral hygiene routine should include brushing the teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time and using mouthwash and dental floss on a regular basis to try and remove bacteria and food particles, which may have been missed during brushing.
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