A survey of 1,000 people, conducted by the British Dental Health Foundation (BDHF), reports that one in five children under the age of 5 were not being supervised while brushing their teeth. The survey also reports that one-quarter of parents thought that children did not need to brush their teeth twice a day, and 67% thought brushing for 1 minute would suffice.

“These results really are very worrying and help explain why around half of children under the age of 5 currently have tooth decay here in the UK,” said Dr. Nigel Carter, DDS, chief executive of the BDHF. “Teaching children good dental habits is vital. Not only has research shown that people who learn good habits as children are far more likely to carry them into adulthood, but taking bad habits into adulthood will cause gum disease and this has been linked to all manner of serious conditions including diabetes, strokes, heart disease, and low birth weight babies.”

The survey results also showed that 23% of parents thought there was no need for children to avoid carbonated drinks, even though they have been linked to dental damage. Other findings included the fact that 29% of UK adults suffered with bleeding gums and almost half of those simply ignored them or brushed their teeth more softly to avoid aggravating them.

Janet Clarke, of the British Dental Association, said teaching children how to brush their teeth was a vital part of oral hygiene.

"Twice-daily brushing with fluoride paste should begin as soon as the baby teeth begin to erupt and will need to be performed or supervised by an adult until children are around 6 years of age. Parents have a crucial role to play in encouraging their children to get into good oral health habits from a young age."

[BBC, June 3, 2008]