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A blog looking at the impact of spoon sharing and breastfeeding in relation to children’s oral health.
By Steve Wake
My children’s dental health has always been important to me but it has become more so recently after I took on the case of a 3 year old who has had six teeth extracted as a result of decay. The poor boy needed a raft of other treatment in the form of restorations and sealants.
Now it’s easy to blame the parents or even the dentists for this horrific situation. But what if the parents did nothing wrong?
Did you know that babies are born without the bacteria that causes dental caries (decay)?
Nor did I. They get it from the parents and the environment. All those tasty toys and tables they like to suck on. Mums and dads naturally do things like test food to make sure it’s not too hot, or clean a dummy with their mouth. When we do this we spread the germs that can start the process of decay before the teeth appear. Apparently it’s important not to share a spoon. Apparently even blowing on hot food should be avoided.
Personally I think avoiding spoon sharing is a little extreme especially if as a parent you do have good oral health. However, I would suggest to any parent who has significant dental problems that they should be careful. Common sense should prevail and if you have dental decay in your mouth you would want to avoid passing it to someone else, especially your baby.
But what about breast feeding? Surely that is fine? Breast is best and all that… Well night time nursing might be a problem. Paediatric Dentists are increasingly of the opinion that night time feeding contributes to decay and tooth loss. La Leche League GB do warn that breastfeeding can increase decay causing bacteria in babies mouths.
I think that the parents have to weigh up the pro and cons. There are benefits to breastfeeding obviously and benefits to spoon sharing but as with anything, there are risks, some of which we’ve not even considered risks. But we also have to face the fact that some people are just more prone to caries (decay) some if this might be hereditary. What I find shaking is that the socio-economic group that a child belongs to has an effect on their risk of developing caries.
Last year the Health and Social Care Information Centre reported that twenty nine percent of children aged five from better off families had tooth decay. Children from deprived background? Forty percent. The researches cannot be sure why this is the case as children from all socio-economic groups will have cereal bars, fruit juice and the odd sweet. It may be that labelling is a problem. The government proposes a sugar tax. This might help.
There is some good news Public Health England recently reported that in 2008 nearly a third of five year olds in England suffered tooth decay. Last year it had dropped by a third. This may be down to a change in society and the value of a smile it has been reported.
We have dealt with a number of children who have required extractions as a result of dentists failing to spot decay. It’s not always right to blame someone but the damage done to adult teeth may be significant and some children require monitoring well into adult life. If you or your child has experienced what you believe is substandard treatment please do give the Dental Negligence team a call.