Dr Mark O'Donnell B.D.S
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12% of three-year-olds have tooth decay: UK survey
A major survey of pre-school children in the United Kingdom has found that more than one in 10 three-year-olds have tooth decay. Public Health England (PHE) researchers checked the teeth of nearly 54,000 children at nurseries, children's centres and playgroups, and found that 12% had evidence of tooth decay, with an average of three teeth that were decayed, missing or filled.
Researchers also said that some children had a particular type of decay known as early childhood caries. This affects the upper front teeth and spreads quickly to other teeth. It is linked to the consumption of sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups.
PHE said that parents should give their children sugary foods and drinks in smaller quantities and less often. It also urged them not to add sugar to weaning foods or drinks.
Parents and carers should also start brushing children's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears and supervise their brushing until they reach the age of seven or eight.
Previous research by the organisation has shown that by the age of five, one in four children has tooth decay.
Dr Christopher Allen of the British Dental Association said: "Parents and carers may feel that giving sugar-sweetened drinks is comforting, but it's more likely to cause pain and suffering as it is the major cause of tooth decay. It's never too soon to take your toddler to the dentist – ideally no later than 18 months."
Research recommends halving recommended sugar intake
Sugars in the diet should make up no more than 3% of total energy intake to reduce the significant financial and social burdens of tooth decay, according to research from University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
The study analysed the effect of sugars on tooth decay, and shows that sugars are the only cause of tooth decay in children and adults. Researchers compared dental health and diet over time across large populations of adults and children. They found that the incidence of tooth decay was much higher in adults than children, and increased dramatically with any sugar consumption above 0% of energy. Even in children, an increase from near-zero sugar to 5% of energy doubles the prevalence of decay and continues to rise as sugar intake increases.
Current guidelines from the World Health Organisation set a maximum of 10% of total energy intake from free sugars, with 5% as a 'target'. This equates to around 50g of free sugars per day as the maximum, with 25g as the target. The latest research suggests that 5% should be the absolute maximum, with a target of less than 3%.
The authors recommend a series of radical policy changes to reduce sugar consumption:
• make sure that fruit juices and sugar-containing treats for children are not only no longer promoted, but explicitly seen as unhelpful;
• ban vending machines offering confectionary and sugary drinks in areas controlled or supported financially by government;
• label food containing anything above 2.5% sugars as 'high';
• phase out all sugar beet production in the EU; and,
• develop a tax on sugar as a mass commodity, rather than taxing individual foods.
Dental implant failure rate higher in people taking antidepressants
Dental implants may be more likely to fail in people taking certain types of drugs to treat depression, says a study published in the Journal of Dental Research.
Researchers from McGill University in Montreal followed 490 people for six years. The people had a total of 916 dental implants. A dental implant is a small metal screw placed in the jawbone. An implant can be the base for a tooth-coloured crown, or it can support a denture.
Of the people studied, 51 (10.4%) were taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most commonly prescribed drugs to treat depression.
After six years, 10.6% of implants in the SSRI group had failed. A failed implant does not bond with the bone in the jaw and must be removed. Over the same time period, only 4.6% of implants failed in people not taking SSRIs.
People who smoked were also at greater risk of implant failure, and smaller implants were more likely to fail than larger implants.
SSRIs are known to cause dry mouth (xerostomia), and this can increase the risk for tooth decay; however, dry mouth is not a known risk factor for implant failure.