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Sharp increase in dental problems in toddlers
Increasingly more toddlers and young children have to have multiple cavities filled, which usually must be done using a local anaesthetic, according to professor Luc Martens, head of the child dentistry department at the Ghent University Hospital (UZ Ghent).
Professor Martens told Radio 1 that the problem has increased dramatically over the last several years. “Some children have 10, 12, even 15, rotten teeth,” he said. “That is a lot because they only have 20 in total.”
Because the children are so young, they have to undergo the dental work involved at a specialist department at the hospital rather than their regular dentists and must be treated using anaesthetic. At least 500 children between three and five years old undergo this kind of treatment at UZ Ghent every year.
Martens said that the problems being seen now in young children are increasingly complicated, usually not concerning just one cavity or infection but a whole series of issues. The problem, stems, he said, from a combination of poor nutrition – particularly way too many sugary drinks – and a lack of oral hygiene.
“Snacks often contain a lot of sugars, and the consumption of sugared soft drinks has also increased enormously,” said Martens. “The sugars from these products remain in the mouth for a long time.”
The professor also refutes the notion that brushing the teeth of small children is unimportant because these teeth fall out anyway. “If it goes so badly with the primary teeth, then it will probably also go badly with the permanent ones – unless oral hygiene habits change drastically,” he said. “Brushing from the very first tooth is really necessary.”