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They're gone in 60 seconds ... our kids brush their teeth for shortest time in UK, sparking fears of tooth decay crisis

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 18/07/2015

Teeth should be brushed for at least two minutes
Teeth should be brushed for at least two minutes

Children in Northern Ireland brush their teeth for an average of just 60 seconds - the shortest time of any UK region - according to a new survey.

The study by dental group My Dentist has led to concerns of a growing tooth decay crisis and calls for action to be taken to improve parental knowledge.

The poll of more than 2,000 mum and dads showed 20% incorrectly thought fruit smoothies were good for their child's teeth.

Children in the north west of England brushed their teeth longest at 77 seconds - still short of the recommended two minutes.

Markethill dentist Paul Reaney said parents needed to teach their kids about the importance of brushing from a young age.

"The main problem is a lack of education," he added. "Prevention of tooth decay is vital. Many parents do not realise how many hidden sugars are in fizzy drinks or smoothies."

And Professor Nigel Hunt, from the Royal College of Surgeons in England, warned parents did not understand the implications of poor oral hygiene and said children should be supervised while brushing their teeth up until 14.

"One tip for parents to ensure their child brushes their teeth for long enough is pick a favourite song on the iPod and get them to brush their teeth while it plays - it also makes it fun," he said.

"The key thing is that regular check-ups will maintain teeth and build up trust and a good relationship with the dentist."

Experts also warned that general health was affected by poor oral hygiene, with studies associating the latter with diabetes, heart disease, strokes, pneumonia, premature babies and other major conditions in later life.

Barry Cockcroft, the former chief dental officer for NHS England, said:"Early dental care can be a confusing, daunting issue for many parents.

"As an industry, we must work harder to ensure that the best and most appropriate resources are available."

Tooth decay is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Bacteria in the plaque feed on sugars from food and drink and produce an acid that slowly destroys teeth.

Decay itself stems largely from a poor diet and poor dental care - not brushing teeth properly and not visiting the dentist often enough.

The more often children have acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay.

It is advised that parents:

  • Give children water or milk to drink.
  • Start brushing children's teeth as soon as they erupt.
  • Brush twice a day using fluoride toothpaste for two minutes.
  • Brush using small circular motions, making sure that all tooth surfaces are cleaned.
  • Select a brush with a small head and medium-strength bristles.
  • For children up to three years of age, brush the teeth yourself, using a smear of 1,000 parts per million (PPM) fluoride paste.
  • For children aged between three and six, encourage the child to brush their teeth themselves, but supervise their brushing. Use a pea-sized blob of 1,350-1,500 PPM fluoride paste.

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