Dr Sameer Patel, Clinical Director at elleven, discusses the importance of parents promoting oral health to their children after it was revealed that one in eight UK children have tooth decay.
Oral health and looking after teeth is ultimately education driven and as a parent, if you bring a child into this world you are responsible for them. If parents are motivated and knowledgeable about how to brush and care for their teeth, the children will be too. As clinical director at elleven dental, I see day in and day out that children tend to have the same traits as their parents and therefore oral health education at home is crucial. Today’s world is busy, but parents should be spending a little bit more time with their children and taking them through the correct methods to look after their teeth.
Tooth decay is fundamentally related to two things: brushing teeth and diet. Firstly, children should be educated on the importance of brushing in the morning and evening for two minutes. Parents need to motivate their children and make it fun whilst setting and demonstrating clear guidelines. Children don’t have the manual dexterity to adequately do this on their own until the age of 6, so prior to this parents should be supervising teeth brushing. It is good to give children responsibility but unfortunately, if left to their own devices without parental support, they will often be leaving plaque, bacteria and food debris in the mouth.
The second aspect is diet, which is related to discipline. We always talk about limiting sugar intake to meal times and not snacking on sugary foods – parents can designate a ‘sweetie day’ where children have treats once a week.
It is also very important that parents don’t pass on their fears of the dentist. Years ago it might have hurt to have a filling but dentistry has come on leaps and bounds and nowadays there is no excuse for avoiding the dentist. Parents should be taking advantage of NHS dentists – there are plenty about- and booking their children in for regular check-ups. Not only will their children end up having their teeth for longer and the benefits of that, they will also have an education and that is a legacy they will pass onto the next generation.
However, elleven feel very passionately about the need to instil these practices in children from a young age and as an extension of her job as an Orthodontic Specialist at elleven, Dr Shivani Patel has been into several schools to talk about dental hygiene as part of their PSHE programme. The children respond very positively to an outside expert rather than just their teacher or parent telling them and the class forum encourages interaction amongst the children. It also serves as an insight into dentistry as a possible career for children.
To conclude, education starts at home and if parents supervise the ways their children brush their teeth from a young age, they will reap the benefits in later life. As a parent, you have a duty and the responsibility of reinforcing the importance of brushing, whilst limiting the amount of sugar in their children’s diet. However, this is a subject that elleven feel strongly about and as highlighted by Dr Shivani’s work, external input can often be very productive.