We all know we’re in the middle of a child tooth decay crisis in the UK. So what can we actually do to help? It’s important to look beyond the headlines and see what we can do in our local communities to help children receive the care they deserve.
The root of the problem
Like all problems in dentistry, it’s necessary we get to the root cause. In the majority of cases, this is likely to lead back to the parents/guardians of a child. After all, children under the age of 5 rarely have the necessary dexterity to clean their own teeth effectively without guidance, and they are also not psychologically aware of the importance of cleaning their teeth and the repercussions that failing to do so can cause.
The first step is to fill the gaps in knowledge. It was only last year that the BBC reported that some children in Wales were having large numbers of teeth removed because parents/guardians did not know that baby teeth had to be brushed.[i] This is particularly worrying as any problems with baby teeth can impact the permanent dentition underneath.
Another worrying report claims that parents are unsure when they should even start taking their children to the dentist. [ii] It’s recommended that children start seeing the dentist as soon as their first tooth emerges, or by age one, and parents need to be aware of this so that their children can receive the care and attention they need from the start.
So how do we ensure parents and guardians are getting the information they need? Could you hold open days in your practice for parents of young children so that they can learn all of the relevant information and have their questions answered? It may also be worth creating an information pack that you can give to patients that you know are expecting or already have young children, as this will give them materials to refer to at home.
Make it fun
A very high proportion of adults have dental anxiety or phobia, and this inevitably means that they avoid visiting the dentist where possible. This sets a bad example for their children, and it is highly probable that those under the care of these individuals will develop the same dislike/ fear of seeing the dentist.
Can you invest in some new technology that will help make procedures as pain-free as possible? What about putting resources together to enhance the welcoming atmosphere of your practice with scents or music? Even these small differences can put people at ease and make a significant difference.
If you treat a lot of young children it may also be worth considering making your practice a bright and fun child friendly environment – maybe you can introduce a magical theme and paint colourful characters on the walls, or perhaps you can create a large play area in the waiting room? If visiting the dentist is fun for a child, it’s likely that they will feel at ease, be more compliant and want to return.
Putting children first
Children need support from both their parents and professionals. By educating parents and giving them the knowledge they need, you can ensure that children start their oral health journey on the right foot.
For further information please call EndoCare on 020 7224 0999
[ii] The Independent. Millions of Parents Putting Children’s Health At Risk By Not Knowing Dental Care Facts, According To Research. Link: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/children-teeth-dental-health-hygiene-parents-brush-toothpaste-a8349656.html [Last accessed May 19].