25% of children in the region have tooth decay
Troublesome teeth problems amongst children in Yorkshire are on the rise as shocking new figures reveal that more than a quarter of five-year-olds start school with fillings, decayed teeth and even missing molars.
Thanks to diets high in sugar, a rising number of children are having to undergo painful tooth extractions even though tooth decay itself is entirely preventable.
According to the latest Public Health figures, the number of sugar cubes (approx 4g) in popular 500ml drinks are at dangerous levels with a whopping 15 cubes in Lucozade, 13.5 in Coca Cola whilst even Volvic flavoured water has nearly six.
Depending upon a child’s age, the maximum daily allowance of sugar for children is only five to seven cubes.
Data released from Public Health England (PHE) has revealed that across the country, one in 40 five-year-olds have had rotten teeth removed; including 3.9 per cent of youngsters in Yorkshire and the Humber, compared to just 1.9 per cent in the East Midlands.
In the South East, 80 per cent of five-year-olds have a clean bill of oral health but in the North West the figure stands at just 67 per cent.
Dr Imran Rangzeb from Town Hall Dental in Halifax said the figures are worrying.
“Kids are never going to stop eating sweets,” he said. “But tooth decay isn’t just caused by sugar, it’s also certain types of bacteria that cause it.
“Children have to be more vigilant with brushing their teeth and parents must ensure their diet does not consist of too many sugary drinks and snacks.”
To nip tooth decay in the bud, Dr Rangzeb believes parents should be more truthful about their kids’ eating habits so that a healthy oral hygiene routine can be kept up.
Children should also use “adult toothpaste as soon as they get teeth,” Dr Rangzeb advises as “the main difference between adult and kids’ toothpaste isn’t only the flavouring but also the amount of fluoride.
“There are toothpastes out there which we prescribe to certain patients who have double the amount of fluoride, too.”
Also to blame for the rise in tooth decay is the amount of fizzy drinks consumed at meal times.
“Children should cut out fizzy drinks and turn to water and non-sugar alternatives,” Dr Rangzeb added.
Navtej Hunjan, a dentist from Bradford, reiterated his fellow professional’s message.
He noted: “Two of the biggest things that make tooth decay worse is a high sugar diet and lack of oral hygiene. It’s as simple as that.
“Children are clearly not brushing their teeth enough and eating too many sugary foods.”
Navtej said that children are on the NHS from the age of six months so parents have access to free dental care for their children.
However “there is a lack of parental education and coming in for routine check-ups is important,” Dr Navtej said.
“Parents have now got their kids used to fizzy drinks and it is hard to wean them off it.”
The latest data on oral health shows a small but steady decline in the number of five year-olds in Leeds with decayed and missing teeth, from 33.7 per cent in 2013/14 to 31.4 per cent in 2014/15.
Leeds City Council’s Public Health team say they are working hard with partners to continue to improve these statistics.
They say they are ensuring frontline health staff are trained appropriately so they can give families information and advice about oral health, as well as providing advice and free toothbrushes and paste to parents when they see a health visitor with their child at nine months of age.
“Sugary fizzy drinks are a key contributor to dental decay and if sipped over the day can cause irreversible damage. Our health campaigns are encouraging children to drink milk or water instead,” a spokesperson said.
“Leeds has recently developed a Leeds Smiles campaign, offering an enhanced package of storybooks, information leaflets, tooth brushing reward charts and other resources in key areas of the city where tooth decay in children under five is more prevalent.”
The campaign site www.leedssmiles.co.uk features a timer song and game to make brushing fun for children, as well as a video and top tips to help parents and carers look after their child’s teeth.