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Teaching Children Dental Health


Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and youths in the UK, yet it is, in most part, preventable with good oral care. Significant regional differences exist, with children from deprived areas having two times the amount of decay as those from well-off areas. 

Cavities affect kids in many direct and indirect ways. Research carried out in North West hospitals, for instance, found that 26% of kids who had a tooth extracted missed school because of dental pain, infection, etc. Currently, oral hygiene is included in the UK school curriculum for Year Four kids (aged eight to nine). However, one study by S Weston-Price et al found that in the UK, children have significant gaps in their oral health awareness. The researchers concluded that curriculum leaders should be encouraged to boost oral health education for entire schools.

Bitten by the e-Bug

To help improve oral hygiene teaching in schools, the Dental Public Health Department at Bart’s and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry partnered up with Public Health England’s e-Bug team to create a dedicated lesson for students in Key Stage 2 (aged seven to 11). Developed by dentists, researchers and other specialised professionals as well as students, it contained text and video material. The lesson focused on two simple aims: consuming less sugar and brushing teeth twice a day. 

The study by S Weston-Price and colleagues found that this lesson led to significant improvement in students’ learning outcomes. The latter included the knowledge that tooth decay and loss can cause pain, that fruit juice can be bad for teeth (because it can settle on the tooth surface and cause decay), and that after brushing, it is okay to spit out the excess toothpaste but not to rinse. The researchers concluded that oral hygiene should be taught more extensively than it currently is, and not just as a section (‘human teeth’) in Year Four.

Advanced Topics to Delve Into

Schools with extracurricular clubs focusing on health and wellness can embrace more advanced oral health topics than those covered in primary school. Particularly for older and mature students, discussions can centre around oral health issues that may affect them at their specific age. For instance, teen students into sports like basketball who are also wearing braces can learn of the importance of wearing mouthguards to protect orthodontics. After all, failure to do so can result in a broken apparatus, but also injury to the lips and cheeks.

Teens can also be introduced to new types of orthodontics such as Invisalign, which can help realign teeth yet make it easier to clean teeth at night. Oral health topics can be interjected with other health and wellness topics - everything from holistic health practices like yoga and meditation, right through to Keto and other low-sugar nutritional plans.

Embracing the Power of Technology

The Internet boom means that children find technology to be almost an extension of themselves. Therefore, parents should look to apps and devices as a means of extending their children’s knowledge of oral health. Kitten Planet’s Brush Monster, for instance, is a good choice for young children, since it uses augmented reality and a smart toothbrush to reveal how well children are actually brushing teeth. Other apps accompanying children’s electric toothbrushes simply use cartoon characters to ‘accompany’ kids through their brushing routine, to ensure children spend the required amount of time on each tooth. As new apps arise, teachers can recommend their use to parents and pupils alike.

Recent research has shown that children in the UK could benefit significantly from more extensive education into oral health. Teachers and curriculum planners can do their share to advocate for the need to incorporate oral health into the curriculum, past Year Four. Children should also be taught several topics to do with teeth - including gum health, braces, the importance of proper bite, the effect of tooth loss, and even the cost of implants and tooth replacement. Children often do not know how painful and uncomfortable tooth loss can be, and they should do so in order to enjoy good oral health throughout their lifetime.

While the rise of the Internet has resulted in many benefits for children, such as learning how to properly brush their teeth, it can also cause concern among parents when it comes to safe Internet usage. Here are 5 tips to keep your children safe online.

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