ITV News reported about rotting teeth this week after a senior dentist gave an interview to the Sunday Times.
Dean of the Royal College of Surgeons’ dental faculty Professor Nigel Hunt told the Sunday Times about the crisis in the number of children needing emergency dental treatment to have rotten teeth removed:
We are reaching crisis point in terms of the number of children needing to go into the dental hospitals for full-blown general anaesthetics for extraction.
Almost 26,000 general anaesthetics are being given to five to nine-year-old children every year to have teeth out now.
We are talking frightening figures and the services just can’t cope.
At many centres, children are having to wait six months to have a general anaesthetic and there is one, in fact, that is over a year
– DEAN OF THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS’ DENTAL FACULTY PROFESSOR NIGEL HUNT
Approximately 46,000 children are admitted each year to hospital to have teeth removed often requiring general anaesthetics. The primary cause is sugar which is contained in the vast quantity of sugar drinks and sweets that are consumed by this age group. A Department of Health spokesman went on to say:
Children’s teeth are dramatically healthier than they were 10 years ago but it still needs to improve.
We are radically changing NHS dentistry, so that dentists will be paid for keeping the nations’ teeth healthy, rather than just for treating problems as they arise.
We have asked for expert advice about the amount of sugar we should be eating, which will be published soon, and this will be taken into account as we continue to work on our childhood obesity strategy.
– A DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SPOKESMAN
One of the most frustrating issues is that tooth decay and gum disease are so preventable. All that is required in most cases is a good diet and a good dental health care routine. Not only does poor or hygiene affect your teeth it also affects the rest of your body:
- Gum disease increases risk for heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
- If you have diabetes and bleeding gums, your risk of premature death increases by 400 to 700%.
- Gum disease and tooth loss increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Pregnant women with gum disease have a only one in seven chance of giving birth to a healthy child normal size.
- Harvard studies state that gum disease increase pancreatic and kidney cancer risk by 62%
- Eliminating gum disease could add 6 1/2 years to your life.
- People with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease.
What can we do about rotting teeth and gum disease?
NICE have produced a simple infographic which explains what to do:
NICE also have a range of articles which help with tooth decay.
Here’s our list of what you can do to prevent dental decay.
- If you really want to eat sugary foods finish them in one go and don’t drag the process out. Sucking things like lollipops over an extended period of time keeps the sugar in contact with your teeth, if you really must have something sweet eat it without lingering too long.
- When giving drinks to kids, only give them water in their sipping cups. This is for the same reason as point number one, giving children sugary drinks in their sipping cup keeps the sugar in contact with their teeth for longer.
- Don’t let children go to sleep with bottles. Even milk can cause tooth decay. If you do put your child to sleep with a bottle, it should contain water only.
- Limit sweets. Sucking on sweets is another way that adults and kids alike can extend exposure to sugar. Limit sweets and the time it takes to consume them, and make sure children brush afterward.
- Wait 20 minutes before brushing. After you have eaten the acid attack on your teeth is at its highest, if you wait 20 min before you rush you give your teeth time to recover.
- Brush your teeth for 2 minutes. Breaking your mouth down into four quadrants. Upper left, right, lower left and lower right. Take 30 seconds to clean each quadrant ensuring you brush the cheek side, tongue side and biting surfaces of your teeth.
What can you do in 2 minutes?
Rotting teeth treatment
With routine visits to the dentist you should keep the chances of developing dental decay much lower. If your dentist happens to notice the first stages of decay they may apply a fluoride varnish to the teeth. In areas with fluoridation of water, dentists cite reports finding that 45% fewer young children were admitted to hospital for decay.
Fluoride is probably the most effective treatment available for preventing and limiting the spread of tooth decay. It is a naturally occurring mineral found in foods and drinks, such as fish and tea, but it can also be synthesised (manufactured).
Synthetic fluoride is used in toothpaste, from which most people get their fluoride, and small amounts of it are added to the water supply in some areas of the country.
Fluoride protects teeth by strengthening the enamel, making teeth more resistant to the acids that can cause tooth decay. It reduces the ability of plaque bacteria to produce acid, and enhances the repair (remineralisation) of enamel.
If your cavity is in its early stages, your dentist may be able to prevent further decay by applying a concentrated fluoride gel, varnish or paste to any affected teeth.
If you have been more unfortunate and the decay has worn away the surface layer of your tooth, known as enamel then some form of restorative work will be required. Your dentist will need to remove any decayed area and then place some form filling material. In our dental practice in Portishead, Bristol we replace this decayed tooth material with either white fillings or CEREC single visit inlays.
If this decay has progressed further and has begun to affect the nerve in the middle of your tooth then you may require a root canal treatment. This is where the nerve of the tooth is removed and replaced with a filling material.
In extreme cases where the decay has progressed extraction of that tooth maybe necessitated. If the tooth is extracted then you are advised to consider replacing it with either a dental implant, dental bridge or denture.
As you can see, as the stages progress treatment becomes more severe and costly, it is therefore in your own interest to keep your teeth for as long as possible and follow a good diet and dental healthcare programme.