National Smile Month

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Children are almost twice as likely to go to hospital with preventable dental problems than for asthma – Royal College of Surgeons

 

The Alarming Rise of Preventable Dental Problems in Children

Children today face a myriad of health challenges, but one startling statistic stands out: they are almost twice as likely to be hospitalised for preventable dental problems than for asthma. This trend underscores the critical need for enhanced dental care and awareness among parents, educators, and healthcare providers.

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The Scope of the Problem

According to the Royal College of Surgeons, preventable dental issues have become the leading cause of hospital admissions among children, surpassing even asthma. This rise can be attributed to poor oral hygiene practices, lack of access to dental care, and inadequate dietary habits. The consequences of untreated dental problems are severe, often leading to pain, infection, and in extreme cases, hospitalisation.

 

Why Are Dental Problems on the Rise?

Several factors contribute to the increasing incidence of dental issues in children:

1. Poor Oral Hygiene:
Many children do not brush and floss their teeth regularly or properly. The lack of proper dental care routines can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, causing cavities and gum disease.

2. Dietary Habits:
The consumption of sugary snacks and beverages has surged, contributing to tooth decay. Foods high in sugars and acids erode tooth enamel, leading to cavities and other dental issues.

3. Limited Access to Dental Care:
Socioeconomic barriers prevent many families from accessing regular dental check-ups and treatments. Inadequate dental insurance coverage and a lack of local dental services exacerbate this issue.

4. Lack of Awareness:
There is a general lack of awareness about the importance of oral health and its impact on overall health. Many parents do not prioritise dental care as part of their children’s routine health check-ups.

 

The Impact of Dental Problems on Children

Dental problems can have far-reaching effects on a child’s overall well-being:

– Pain and Discomfort: Untreated cavities and gum diseases can cause significant pain, affecting a child’s ability to eat, sleep, and concentrate in school.
– Infections: Dental issues can lead to serious infections that may spread to other body parts if not treated promptly.
– Hospitalization: Severe dental problems often require emergency care, increasing hospital admissions.
– Psychological Impact: Children with dental issues may suffer from low self-esteem and social anxiety due to visible dental problems and the associated stigma.

Preventive Measures and Solutions

Addressing this issue requires a multifaceted approach involving parents, healthcare providers, and policymakers:

1. Education and Awareness:
Educating parents and children about the importance of oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups is crucial. Schools and community programs can play a significant role in spreading awareness.

2. Improving Access to Dental Care:
Expanding dental services in underserved areas and improving insurance coverage can help more children receive the dental care they need. Mobile dental clinics and school-based dental programs can also be effective.

3. Healthy Dietary Choices:
Encouraging healthy eating habits, including reducing the intake of sugary snacks and beverages, can significantly reduce the risk of dental problems. Parents and caregivers should be educated on the impact of diet on oral health.

4. Regular Dental Check-Ups:
Routine dental visits should be promoted as essential to a child’s healthcare regimen. Early detection and treatment of dental issues can prevent more severe problems later.

 

Conclusion

The fact that children are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalised for preventable dental problems than for asthma highlights a significant public health issue. By focusing on education, improving access to care, and promoting healthy habits, we can help children maintain good oral health and avoid the pain and complications associated with dental problems. It is a collective responsibility to address this issue and safeguard the health and well-being of our children.

 

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Last updated on June 3, 2024

Dr. Deepak Aulak

Dr. Deepak Aulak is a London-based dental practitioner with a special interest in cosmetic dentistry. Having graduated from King's College London in Dentistry, Dr. Aulak was decorated with over a dozen awards and scholarships along the way, which notably include the Jelf Medal, Malleson Prize for research and GKT Hospital's Full Shields.

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