Children under-three from Greater Manchester are among the worst sufferers of tooth decay in England because parents are feeding them too much sugary drinks, health officials have warned.
Salford, Manchester and Oldham are among the worst culprits in the country, according to new research from Public Health England.
The research – the first conducted for this age group – shows 30.4% of children under three in Oldham suffer from tooth decay, the highest number in the North West and the second highest in the country.
In Manchester, 25.6% of children under three have evidence of decay, which is more than double the national average of just below 12%. Salford is not far behind, with 24.8%.
Dr Sandra White, PHE’s Director of Dental Public Health, said fruit juice was now ‘the biggest culprit’ many parents were giving babies and toddlers fruit juices without realising their high sugar content.
“Fruit juices appear healthy but actually have a lot of sugar – parents are just trying to do their best for children but don’t realise how much sugar there is in the fruit drinks,” she said.
“You find parents putting squashes into baby bottles – children who are hardly out of nappies with a bottle of sugary drink in their mouth.”
|Area||Percentage of under-3s with tooth decay|
|Blackburn with Darwen||20.6%|
Shockingly, the senior doctor revealed that some parents were not brushing children’s teeth in the mornings at all, leaving the job to nursery staff.
“With mothers and fathers often at work all day, you get busy parents dropping kids off at nursery and running, and they haven’t brushed their teeth, so this isn’t just a job for parents – it’s for nurseries and for grandparents, and carers,” she said.
The North West, according to data collected in 2011, is the second-worst region in England for tooth decay in this age group, behind only the East Midlands, with an average of 14%.
“While there have been significant improvements to the nation’s oral health, some areas still experience problems with tooth decay among young children,” Dr White said.
“Tooth decay is an entirely preventable disease, which can be very painful and even result in a child having teeth removed under general anaesthetic, which is stressful for children and parents alike.”
Dr White said tooth decay in children can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle by parents and carers reducing the amount of sugary foods and drinks they give their children.
They must also support children to brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, especially before bedtime.
She added: “It is also important to take your child to the dentist, which is free of charge for children, as the dentist will be able to advise you about how to keep your child’s teeth and gums healthy.”
Image courtesy of Aurimas Mikalauskas, with thanks.