Strong teeth and a smile for life

Children in the UK are experiencing poor dental health with nearly half of eight  year olds having obvious tooth decay in their primary teeth and record numbers of young children having extractions.

Sadly, 35 per cent of 12-year-old children are too embarrassed to smile or laugh due to tooth decay or missing teeth, according to major research aimed at assessing the nation’s oral health and providing support to develop the right tools to help tackle the crisis.

Poor dental health in children makes them four times more likely to experience serious decay as a teenager, leading to pain, discomfort and a lack of confidence. Each child with dental problems misses between two and fifteen days of school a year, according  to studies.

But experts are showing that the right support can prevent dental issues and promote good oral teeth-cleaning habits for a healthy and confident smile for life.

Oral-B, leaders in dental healthcare, are collaborating with experts at the University of Leeds; together they have worked with parents and dentists to understand the fundamental and systemic issues that are causing this crisis.

Thousands of children are enduring the discomfort and pain of tooth decay in their primary teeth

The findings, although alarming, have provided the framework for a response that includes helping parents adopt good home-based dental habits. Dental teams already work very hard to engage in conversations with parents around the importance of good regimes, such as brushing twice a day for two minutes, and paying attention to sugary food and drink intake.

The Strong Teeth programme supports dental teams across the UK and provides them with high-quality resources and insights into how to increase the impact of these conversations.

“Decay levels are coming down slowly, but they are still unacceptably high,” says Dr Peter Day, associate professor in paediatric dentistry at the University of Leeds. “The result is that thousands of children are enduring the discomfort and pain of tooth decay in their primary teeth, making it more likely they will have problems with their adult teeth.

“Having a healthy set of teeth growing up is crucial to children’s happiness and wellbeing. The important thing to note is that almost all tooth decay is preventable.”

Oral-B, which has been developing oral-health products for more than 65 years, has a mission to reach, educate and support all parents and encourage good oral-health habits in young people from early on.

“We were shocked when we first learnt about the state of dental health of British children. With many of the issues broadly preventable, Oral-B is partnering with dental professionals to equip parents with advice to help their children develop the right habits and to lay down a strong foundation for good oral health, for a healthy and confident smile for life,” says Tom Moody, general manager of Procter & Gamble UK, the company which develops Oral-B.

Working with the University of Leeds, the Strong Teeth programme is based on sound evidence and psychological theory.

“Following this rigorous and collaborative development process, we are working hand in hand with dental professionals, providing over 20,000 of them with simple and engaging educational resources to relay to parents and their kids during routine check-ups,” says Ciara McEvoy, brand management Oral-B UK.

“Oral-B has also developed dedicated resources online – – to support parents with their kids’ oral-care practices. Oral-B is committed to take on this challenge to improve kids’ dental care in the UK.”

Combined with the right dental-care products, these positive messages are designed to encourage parents to lead the way by learning that decay and poor teeth are mostly preventable with changes to their family’s daily oral-care routine.

Establishing good toothbrushing habits should start as soon as the first tooth arrives and should include a first visit to the dentist before the age of one.

“The perception that you get a second chance with your adult teeth is common among some families, but key research shows that if you have decay in your baby teeth, you are far more likely to get decay in your adult teeth,” says Dr Day. “Research, which followed children into their teens, found that the state of their teeth, good or bad, was heavily influenced by the habits their parents formed for them as young children.”

Oral-B’s educational resources, which support dental teams to have these conversations with parents and for families to appreciate the need for good oral-health routines, have been distributed around the UK. Since May 2018, enough leaflets to support more than 300,000 conversations between professionals and parents have been distributed through this programme, sustainably helping to improve families’ approach to dental health.

Parents are also provided with informative leaflets and other resources to support them on how to make toothbrushing fun, graphics for the correct toothbrushing techniques, and how to include family friends and carers so the routine is consistent. Establishing good routines needs motivation, skills and time management, which  are an increasing challenge in  modern society.

“Setting up a routine can be challenging, which is why people want to get habits right at the beginning rather than correcting poor habits later on in life,” says Dr Day. “Many parents face lots of competition for their time and children are often looked after in family or care settings so it is important to reach out to all these carers.

“Advice and guidance from dentists is great, but shared learning from respected adults in the community and neighbours, who have similar lifestyles, can be very powerful.

“The joy of working with Oral-B is that it can reach the wider community. Providing the information and motivation for good oral habits is important. It is not just about tooth brushing; the healthy eating and drinking messages are vital too.

“The best thing you can do is give your children a happy and healthy smile.”

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