Earlier this year, Daily Telegraph journalist, Harry Wallop, confessed in an article that his six year old has just received her third filling and had one tooth removed.

Harry goes on to write:

“Admitting your child is lazy, has a violent streak or wants to be a taxidermist are all OK. Weirdness is acceptable.
Obesity and tooth decay are not. They are about the last two parental taboos. The ultimate sign that you have failed.”

The usual statistics are quoted that 29% of children from well-off families have tooth decay by the time they start school; the figure rising to 40% from lower income families.

He’s middle class, well-educated and savvy about oral health but still seems beholden to ideas such that Rich Tea biscuits and cereal bars are the ‘best’ of a bad lot. He’s knowledgeable about the dangers of fruit juice but not about dried fruits.

So who is to blame for the poor state of his child’s teeth?

Interestingly, the comments on the bottom of the article are mixed. Some clearly sympathise but others place blame squarely at the parental door.

It is true that you can have two children with similar diet and brushing habits and yet very different dental health. Harry’s children are regularly brushing although it sounds like they only occasionally floss their teeth yet his son has perfect oral health. For the record children should be encouraged to floss as soon as two teeth emerge that are touching. It’s also important that teeth are cleaned whether or not they are milk or permanent teeth. Tooth decay in milk teeth can cause damage to the emerging permanent replacement teeth.

In addition poor habits in youth generally lead to poor habits in adulthood which can result in gum recession and bone loss.

So what about genes?

Without doubt they play a part but sugar consumption is a major cause of tooth decay whether or not your family has resilient enamel.

What is needed is a more focussed education programme; although saying that there is plenty of information just a couple of clicks away. Whose responsibility is it to keep informed?

As one commentator put it:

“If we accept that you need to study and pass tests simply to drive a car, or take a job, what makes anyone think that they can rear children without looking up the odd fact or two?”

To be fair information about health changes and we need to keep ourselves updated and informed. This is all part and parcel for clinicians who have a responsibility for their patient’s well-being. But isn’t that also true for parents and guardians?

You can read Harry Wallop’s full article here.