Just under half of eight-year-olds in the UK have holes in their teeth. Half of them. Can you believe it? But who's responsible? Does this mean that half of parents are bad parents? I’m here to tell you that the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT.
As a budding SMUM (step mum) I can completely understand that being a parent has to be one of the most difficult jobs out there. Now, as a dentist and a smum, these are my three reasons for this alarming figure about the UK’s lovely eight-year-olds.Children love sugar. You can buy 1kg of sugar for 70p, pretty cheap right? Did you also know that sugar is acknowledged to be just as addictive as cocaine? *gasps*. Can you imagine loading supermarket isles, shops, and petrol stations with cheap as chips cocaine and everyone being totally cool with it? No! Obviously not, there would be an outrage and rightly so. But sugar tastes great, it’s addictive, and big companies (and probably the government, *cough*) want to make money out of you at your child’s expense. I realised this a few years ago when I went to Centre Parcs. After a tiring afternoon swimming, I thought I would have some chocolate because I AM ON HOLIDAY AND I DESERVE IT. So, I went to the little shop, planning to buy a family bag of chocolate, fully immersing myself in this treat day, only to find that the family bags were £2.99! Well, being the frugal northerner that I am, I thought “well I’m not bloody paying that” and instead paid 30p for a regular sized chocolate bar. It got me thinking about buying sweets and chocolate when I was younger. Can you imagine going into a shop when you were little and buying three bars of chocolate only to eat them all in one go? It seems so outrageous and it just didn’t happen. Yet it’s how the majority of us, myself included, consume refined sugar. All because it is SO CHEAP.
Snacks. It’s just so confusing to know what to feed your kids when they’re hungry. After school, between meals, at 11am on a Sunday, after swimming, visiting Grandma – the list is endless. You know how it is, they’ll moan, ask for a biscuit, some Haribo, they’ll tell you that Josh is allowed biscuits at his house, so why can’t I. What can you do? Try and compromise by giving them raisins, a yoghurt or a healthy cereal bar BUT this stuff is just as bad for your teeth as the Haribo. Confused? Yeah me too, and I’m a dentist. The trick is, you can eat pretty much anything you want to at meal times, and never get holes in your teeth. Honestly, you really can. Some chocolate after lunch or dinner, and you would be fine. It’s the snacks that wreak havoc on your teeth. SO, tell yourself this: if you can’t PEEL it (like a banana) PICK it (off a tree) or KILL it (like a slice of ham) it’s probably bad for your teeth.
The NHS doesn’t have family-specific dentists. You might take your child to the dentist once or twice a year. Your appointment will last about three minutes, the dentist will do a quick check over and they’ll accidentally make you feel like your parenting skills, are terrible. (By the way, you’re not a terrible parent and they’re not terrible dentists. We haven’t been selected to be dentists based on our people skills – more our ability to be able to drill a tooth.)
Rant over. You’ve just read my reasons as to why I think we still have a huge dental crisis in this country. How can I change this? Sadly, I can’t change much as I’m not a politician (yet), but I do have some great ideas as to where we can all start. Bring back the 30p chocolate bar Have nice (non-judgy) dentists, who have been trained to support families in forming healthy habits whilst navigating the turbulent waters of parenthood. Ban flashy packaging on chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks and replace with pictures of rotten teeth.
But for now, Habox will have to do. It will be your dentist in a box, will never judge and will be there for you every day, not just twice a year.