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Dr Miriam Stoppard’s health focus…

It may be good news that tooth problems in children have decreased since 2001 but I still find it depressing that a third of 12-year-olds have decayed, filled or missing teeth.

A report by the NHS Dental Epidemiology Programme found that the proportion of 12-year-olds with these problems has dropped from 37% in 2001 to 33% in 2008/09. But to me it’s just not good enough that a third of kids have bad teeth!

Levels varied up to four times between regions and while this could partly be down to a lack of tooth-strengthening fluoride in some water supplies, this overall level of decay shouldn’t be happening.

Last year, another report revealed that one-third of five-year-olds have similar dental issues. This suggests a lack of good care from the start.

Milk teeth are incredibly important for three reasons: they help kids learn to speak; they help them learn to eat; and they guide the mature teeth into the gums correctly so they grow straight.

Follow my five golden rules to make sure your child has the chance of strong, healthy teeth throughout life: Take vitamin D in pregnancy.

(1) A deficiency of this vitamin in pregnancy can put kids at risk of tooth decay later on. The Food Standards Agency recommends pregnant and breastfeeding women take a 10mcg supplement of vitamin D every day.

(2) Brush from day one. As soon as the first tooth appears, brush it twice a day with a small, soft brush. This gets kids used to brushing. When the full set is through, aim for two minutes a time. Wait at least half an hour after eating to avoid damaging the enamel, which is temporarily softened by acid in food. Supervise brushing up to age seven and remember they need to start flossing when the teeth begin to touch each other.

(3) Use fluoride toothpaste. Up to three, kids should use toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000 parts per million and then 1350ppm-1500ppm.

(4) Stick to water. Up to two-years-old, avoid sweet drinks, including fruit juice. A baby bottle full of a sweet drink will soak their teeth in damaging sugar and acid. After age two, dilute with water and get them to use a straw.

(5) Make friends with the dentist. Get your kids comfortable with regular trips to the dental surgery from the age of two.


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