'Go and brush your teeth!!!'
The kitchen sink is full of last nights dishes, and the alarm set on the phone didn't go off this morning. Now we are in a rush to get out of the house and the first thing sacrificed is the supervised tooth brushing. "Get back up the stairs and brush your teeth!"
"No you didn't!"
It's a common conversation, but when the teeth do eventually get brushed, how well do you think they are going to be cleaned? Smudge of toothpaste in the corner of the mouth, dribble of toothpaste down the school tie, and cornflakes stuck to the back teeth.
This is going to increase the chances of running into problems with tooth decay, tooth ache, early tooth loss, maybe missed days of school due to dental pain, and orthodontic problems later in life due to early tooth loss.
Okay, so this sort of hectic start to the day isn't going to happen that often (I hope). On a normal day though, a day when we have all the time in the world, how much attention do we pay to our children's brushing.
There are 1 million children under the age of 14 in Ireland, and they are at risk of developing serious oral health problems due to inadequate tooth-brushing supervision, according to a leading oral health charity. Results of a new poll carried out by the British Dental Health Foundation found more than one in three (37 per cent) UK parents said they stopped supervising their children’s tooth brushing before the age of seven. The current guidelines in Ireland are to supervise brushing until the age of 8. This ensures they are doing it effectively and for the correct amount of time. We're going to extrapolate that to Ireland.
Thousands of children currently sit on waiting lists for tooth extraction on the endless HSE waiting lists, and whilst developing tooth decay isn't solely down to parents not supervising brushing, it is something pretty simple that we can do that might have some impact. We are forever hearing about sugar creeping into our diets and snacking habits and while this is an influential factor in tooth decay, we also have to look at the daily oral hygiene routine. Making sure children are properly supervised brushing their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is one very simple and effective fix.
Supervising your kid's tooth brushing could involve the parent brushing them, if the child is very young, or brushing alongside them so the child can replicate the parent’s actions. It is also important to make sure that children do not rinse with water after brushing but spit out the toothpaste. This ensures the fluoride stays in the mouth for longer and not washed down the drain.
Even after the age of eight we'll still need to nag them, but at least when they do do it, we know that they will be doing it right.