Crisis warning as four in 10 children in Norfolk and Suffolk do not visit a dentist
PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:19 12 March 2018
A crisis is looming for children’s teeth amid revelations that four in 10 in Norfolk and Suffolk did not visit a dentist at all last year.
The latest figures show almost 135,000 children went 12 months without a check-up - with local dentists predicting an explosion of gum disease and rotten teeth.
One told how growing numbers of children were being put under general anaesthetic at a young age to have eight teeth extracted at a time.
And there are fears the problem will only get worse unless parents heed strong advice to start taking their children to the dentist from an early age as youngsters face a barrage of food packed with sugar.
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Figures from NHS Digital show in Norfolk 74,118 children did not visit a dentist in 2017. It means only 56pc of the county’s children had a dental visit.
In Suffolk 60,136 children did not visit the dentist, meaning 60.5pc of youngsters had an annual check up.
Gautam Sharma, owner at West Earlham Dental Health Practice in Norwich, said: “Sadly this data does not surprise me and I am afraid to say things will only get worse if this trend continues.
“The accessibility and availability of processed food and drink, snacks and sweets, combined with the fall in NHS check ups, will only mean that there is an undiagnosed problem waiting to erupt.
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“Not getting regular check ups, which are free for children, will not only affect their teeth later in life but may affect the possible relationships they form with dentists in the future.
“I am a keen advocate of getting children in as soon as possible, purely to help them become comfortable with the dentist-patient scenario, and to ensure parents and youngsters are always accessing the appropriate information about oral health.”
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Adam Smith is chairman of the Norfolk and Norwich British Dental Association and a junior partner at John G Plummer Associates Dental Surgeons.
His dental firm runs the Happy Smiles Club which promotes oral health care to children.
He said having multiple teeth removed was now the main reason general anaesthetic was used on children.
Mr Smith added: “The main thing is that having multiple teeth extracted due to tooth decay is entirely preventable.
“It is really important to get the oral health message out there to everyone.”
HEALTHY TEETH ADVICE
Amanda Turner, oral health educator and community dental nurse linked to the James Paget University Hospital, said it was common to see eight children’s teeth extracted at once due to tooth decay.
As well as highlighting the importance of children being taken to the dentist, she said parents or carers should be responsible for brushing youngsters teeth up to the age of eight.
She also urged parents to be aware of the threat of sugar and honey-filled “on the go” bars and also sweets, which can see children have twice their daily allowance of sugar of six cubes in just one pack.
She also said for the sake of the health of their teeth people needed just to eat three meals a day, with one other snack possibly allowed, with water also replacing other drinks during the day.
The issue of parents suffering from “dentalphobia” was also seeing some children not going to the dentist at least once a year.
NEED TO VISIT DENTIST
A dental expert has explained why it is important for children to visit a dentist.
Tom Norfolk, chairman of the East Anglia Local Dental Network, said: “Early dental attendance and preventive dental care promotes good oral health and contributes to giving children the best start in life.
“It is recommended children have their first dental check-up by their first birthday, in line with the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry’s Dental Check by One campaign, and then see the dentist regularly afterwards.
“Going to the dentist regularly allows young children to get used to the dental environment and promotes a positive attitude towards dental care.
“The dental team can support young children and families with tooth brushing, diet, and oral health advice, to encourage healthy behaviour early and the prevention of tooth decay.
“Early and regular dental attendance for children will also help the dental team to identify any signs of poor oral health.”