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The lasting effects of my childhood

Written by Karen Coates
Tuesday, 7 Feb 2012 11:50

Neglecting oral care has consequences. You may feel them in the short-term in the form of toothache, or worse you could be feeling them 30 years later.

That's exactly what's happened in the story of 49 year old Lindsey Reed. Throughout her childhood Lindsey's parents neglected to teach her the benefits of good oral care. Now 49, she has been forced to live with those consequences throughout her life.

"My lower teeth front teeth are false, my upper front teeth are false and I have more fillings than I care to remember", she said. "I'm terrified of the dentist, and it's only with hindsight I can point to the fact my parents didn't tell me what was good or bad for my teeth, never mind how I should look after them."

Education and exposure to dentists from an early age are crucial to developing life-long good oral health. Earlier this year, the link between the role parents have to play in promoting good oral health practice was highlighted when a 27 year research project suggested that mothers with poor oral health are likely to have children who also have poor oral health when they reach adulthood.

The long-term study, of over a thousand children born in New Zealand in 1972 and 1973, provided strong evidence that the children of mothers with poor oral health are more likely to grow up with above average levels of tooth loss, tooth decay and fillings.

Introducing children to the sights and sounds of the dental practice at an early age will also allay any dental phobia. In Lindsey's case, she cannot recall many visits to the dentist with her parents.

"For me the dentist's was quite alien. Everything seemed so intimidating. The sights, the sounds, the smells. All of it. When I finally went, things had got so bad I eventually lost so many of my natural teeth it was almost embarrassing."

Young or old, phobias and anxiety can have a profound effect on the way we live our lives. Be it heights, exams or insects, they can often cause severe trauma, have a social impact or even have an effect on your health.

For this reason, a refreshing and invigorating approach to educating children is vital to create a better understanding of what they will encounter - and how to ensure dental anxiety doesn't set in. If not addressed during younger years, dental anxiety can develop into severe dental phobia as one gets older.

Although research hasn't proved there's a link between a parent's dental phobia and their child's, with such high levels of dental anxiety within the adult population, the Foundation encourages that by the age of two and a half years, children should be having regular dental check-ups. This means that many of the children in pre-school environments will already have an understanding of what a dentist does. Lindsey added: "We never had any education on going to the dentist when I was at school. It's testament to the hard work organisations such as the Foundation have put in that it's becoming such an important issue in schools now.

"I'm the proud mother of two children who both have excellent oral health. Although I was terrified of the dentist, my partner wasn't and he took them when needed. As they grew older, they give me the impetus to go and get checkups myself. My startling lack of knowledge meant I had no chance of ever having good oral health, but it highlights the importance parents and educators can play in a child's oral health development.

"If you're not keen of going to the dentist, or have never had good oral health yourself, the worst thing you can do is let your child's oral health suffer too. It's important to make the effort, however hard it may be."

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Comments (1)


 Lesley Bairstow says:

I can empathise with what you say Karen and Lindsey's story. My dental health was totally ignored by my parents who both had all their teeth removed by the age of 21 (for them that was back in the late 1930s)During the fifties, (I am now 65)we never had toothbrushes or toothpaste. I owe my teeth to the school dental service who were absolute brutes and, I believe, caused me a level of dental phobia.I always went to dental appoinments, being a good child who did what she was told by authorative f

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