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1 in 5 children have dental work by the time they're 5!

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A recent study we conducted at Oasis Dental Care looked into the tooth brushing habits of 2,000 parents of 2-11 year olds across the UK. Shockingly, the study revealed that one in five children have had dental work by the time they're just five!

Of those, more than a third (37%) have had fillings, a quarter (26%) needed at least one crown, whilst a third (35%) needed gum disease treatment. By the age of nine, the survey found that nearly a third of children (29%) have had one of these treatments.

Brushing up on brushing

A fifth of children aged two to five only have their teeth brushed once a day, and over a quarter (26%) regularly go at least one day a week without having their teeth brushed. Only 57% of parents could confidently say that their child never goes a day without cleaning their teeth. Brushing habits appear to get better as children get older with 18% of children aged 8-11 going one day a week without brushing their teeth. The report also found that the typical parent with a five year old supervises teeth brushing for just 67 seconds per day. Only 7% of parents manage the recommended two minutes twice a day even though 69% of parents know that children need to brush their teeth for two minutes.

Over a quarter (29%) of UK parents with five year olds find cleaning their children’s teeth the most stressful part of the day and dread it, resulting in one in ten (9%) leaving their children to get on with it themselves. For those that supervise they often meet resistance; children either run away (9%), have a tantrum (8%), make excuses (19%) or get upset (14%).

Ironically, the survey revealed that as they try to deal with teeth cleaning tantrums, more than one in ten parents with five year olds bribe them with sweets. Meanwhile, in looking at parents of 2 – 11 year olds, 5% thought that it’s not necessary to brush milk teeth as they ‘will fall out anyway’. 12% of parents did not know you could have fillings in milk teeth and more than one in five parents wrongly believed that children under the age of five shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste.

Education is key to good oral health

Talking about the findings Eddie Coyle, Dentist and Head of Clinical Services for Oasis Dental Care, commented: “This research shows that education is really important. Many people are simply unaware of how to take care of their children’s dental hygiene. By way of this campaign, we are encouraging parents to ‘take two’ twice a day to ensure their children are brushing their teeth properly. If parents invest time in their children’s dental care early on, they could avoid invasive dental procedures not only in childhood, but also in adult life.”

Of those parents whose children have needed dental work, 74% of parents surveyed admitted to feeling guilty or upset when their child needed their first filling. However, only 15% changed their tooth brushing habits and only 6% changed their diet. Eddie commented: “It’s only natural to feel guilty when your child needs dental work and one thing we have noticed across our 350 dental practices is that people often simply neglect to brush their teeth properly, getting into bad habits and cutting corners. But, it’s not just about how you brush your teeth - diet plays a big part too, and reducing the intake of sugary snacks is really important.”    

Let's cut down on sugary snacks

Of those surveyed only 5% of children don’t eat a sugary snack every day. Nearly half (46%) of two year olds have 2-3 sugary snacks a day and by the age of five this increases to two thirds (62%) of children. Add to this the daily consumption of sugary drinks and it becomes clear that brushing regularly and properly is very important. 

74% of children have at least one sugary drink a day and by the age of three a third of children are having 2-3 sugary drinks daily.  By five a third of children are having between 3-4 sugary drinks such as fruit juices, squashes or soft drinks a day.

Eddie added: “These findings paint a worrying picture as children as young as two are eating and drinking sugary snacks and drinks regularly every day.  We would therefore urge parents to think about the levels of sugar content in foods and drink that they and their children consume as foods high in sugar and carbohydrates increase mouth bacteria which attack the teeth, causing decay. The teeth's natural defence, salvia, takes around an hour following consumption of these high sugar foods, to build up. That's why it’s really important to reduce the frequency of sugar consumption as well as the volume.”

If you'd like advice on maintaining your child's oral health, check out our guide on "Looking after little teeth", where you'll find lots of practical tips on how to encourage brushing and make it fun for your kids. You'll can also find a downloadable brushing chart here, something you can print out and record progress on, each and every day, as a fun, encouraging game for kids. Always feel free to contact your local Oasis Dental Care for help.  Our teams the length and breadth of the UK are dedicated to your family's oral health.