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When to take your child to the dentist

80% of 1 to 2-year-olds didn’t visit an NHS dentist last year

New analysis by the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at The Royal College of Surgeons has found that approximately 80% of children between the age of one and two didn’t visit an NHS dentist in the 12 months leading up to March 31st 2017, despite guidance saying children should start dental check-ups when they develop their first tooth. The analysis also found that almost 60% of children aged one to four didn’t have a dental check-up in the same period.

The FDS is warning that there is a widespread misunderstanding among parents, and even health professionals, about when a baby should visit the dentist. NHS dental check-ups for children are free. Official Public Health England guidance states that parents and carers should ensure their child has a dental check-up as soon as their teeth start to appeal. Babies tend to get their first teeth at around 6 months.

During 2015/16, there were 9,220 cases of tooth extractions performed in hospitals on children aged one to four. This procedure often requires children to receive a general anaesthetic. Many of these cases can be attributed to tooth decay, which the FDS points out is 90% preventable.

Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at The Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“Many oral health problems are easily preventable through twice-daily brushing sessions with fluoride toothpaste, avoiding sugary drinks and snacks, and regular dental check-ups. The earlier a child visits the dentist, the earlier any potential problems can be picked up, so it is easier to prevent children having to go through the trauma of having their teeth removed under a general anaesthetic.

“Dental check-ups in early years are as much about getting children comfortable in a dental environment as it is about checking teeth. Simply getting a child to open their mouth for a dentist to look at their teeth is useful practice for the future. First impressions are vital if we want children to have a long-term positive impression of dentistry. If a first dental visit results in a stressful, traumatic experience, this could have a serious life-long effect on a child’s willingness to engage in the dental process. Mothers are also entitled to free dental check-ups during pregnancy and the 12 months after they give birth.

“Prevention is always better than cure.”

Toothbrushing tips

  • Brush your child’s teeth for about two minutes twice a day: once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day.
  • Encourage them to spit out excess toothpaste, but not to rinse with lots of water. Rinsing with water after tooth brushing will wash away the fluoride and make it less effective.
  • Supervise tooth brushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it. From the age of seven or eight, they should be able to brush their own teeth, but it’s still a good idea to watch them now and again to make sure they brush properly and for about two minutes.

Taking your child to the dentist

  • NHS dental care for children is free.
  • Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can help prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child’s mouth for the dentist to take a look at is useful practise for the future.
  • When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits.
  • Take your child for regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist.

Source: NHS Choices