Tooth decay ‘acceptable’ in Scottish children

A new survey has revealed that almost a third of parents in Scotland think it is acceptable for a child to have experienced tooth decay before they have reached their teenage years. Pic: Robert Perry
A new survey has revealed that almost a third of parents in Scotland think it is acceptable for a child to have experienced tooth decay before they have reached their teenage years. Pic: Robert Perry
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Almost a third of parents in Scotland consider tooth decay in their children acceptable.

This is according to the results of a survey of parents of children aged 1-11 from Denplan, the UK’s leading dental payment plan specialist.

It has revealed that almost a third (32 per cent) of parents in Scotland think it is acceptable for a child to have experienced tooth decay before they have reached their teenage years.

According to the poll, many parents try a multitude of methods to help their children manage their oral health effectively.

However, 40 per cent of parents in Scotland admitted that the reason they believed teeth decay was acceptable was because they found it difficult to control how effectively their children clean their teeth on a daily basis.

Although only a very small minority of people can attribute dental problems to genetics, a family history of poor oral health was also cited as a reason why many parents now accept decay.

Around 30 per cent of parents in Scotland admitted to letting sugar get the better of them, while one in 10 blamed a history of poor oral health for issues with decay in their children’s teeth.

The new statistics come as the government announced the introduction of a sugar tax on the soft drinks industry that will come into effect by 2018.

Experts have long-petitioned for the tax to be introduced to help curb incidence of childhood obesity and tooth decay, the latter being the number one reason that children aged five to nine are admitted to hospital.

Denplan’s research suggests the tax could be warmly welcomed by parents in Scotland, with over a third (35 per cent) of parents surveyed claiming that they believe that tooth decay can be prevented by limiting the amount of sugar in a child’s diet.

The same number of parents in Scotland believe that tooth decay can be prevented by taking children to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appeared.

Despite these good intentions, only 45 per cent of parents in Scotland said they take their children to the dentist every six months and less than a quarter (23 per cent) said they actually reduce the amount of sugar their child consumes.

Dr Henry Clover, chief dental officer at Denplan, said “It is clear that while parents in Scotland have the best of intentions with their children’s dental health, it can be difficult to keep up good habits amongst a backdrop of hidden sugars in our foods and drinks and children’s reluctance to follow a good oral health routine.

“Milk teeth are not practice teeth and learning to care for their teeth on their own is a major milestone that every child has the potential to reach with the right guidance and plenty of practice. Children should be supervised when they brush their teeth until at least the age of seven, and it’s also important that they see their dentist regularly from when their first tooth appears to check for any problems that may be affecting their oral health and make sure that they are cleaning their teeth effectively.”

In light of the research findings, Denplan is encouraging families in Scotland to take part in the Big Summer Brush-Up, making the most of the summer holidays to visit the dentist and spend time practising brushing techniques with their children.

Working with five families, Denplan has also developed ‘Denplan’s Little Book of Healthy Smiles’, containing handy advice from dentists and tips on how to enthuse unwilling children to brush up on cleaning teeth, written for parents by parents.