Tooth decay can cause all sorts of problems. Cavities, toothache and even the loss of our teeth. So it is important that children get into good oral hygiene habits from a young age. Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay so children, with their love of sweet treats, are particularly at risk. So how well are they taking care of their teeth? For this week’s survey we decided to find out.
We asked 1,553 schoolchildren how many filling they had. We gave four possible answers: None, One, Two, Three or more, or for those who can’t recall, I don’t know. The results were quite heartening.
The highest proportion of our respondents (45%) have no fillings at all. This is fantastic news. If so many children are already taking good care of their teeth then it bodes well for the future.
The second highest response was by those who do not know how many fillings they have. This is a bit of a worry. Visits to the dentist are quite memorable so, if a child cannot remember how many times they have had a filling, it suggests that they have had quite a few.
One, two and three fillings all received a low number of responses (8%, 7% and 10% respectively). Together, they make up one quarter of all children. Our results are skewed a little by the number of respondents who do not know how many fillings they have, but if we disregard those then three-quarters of children have no fillings and only one quarter have any at all.
When we get holes in our teeth these are called cavities. These are caused by tooth decay and they can, if the decay reaches the inside of the tooth, become very painful. In worst case scenarios the tooth may actually have to be removed.
If cavities are caught early then they can be treated by a filling. A dentist will remove the decayed parts of the tooth and then fill in the hole with a filling. But not all cavities are caused by tooth decay. Nervous habits, such as teeth grinding or nail biting can also cause them.
There are several materials which can be used to make fillings: gold; porcelain; silver amalgam; or composite resin. The whereabouts and extent of the decay will affect which material is most suitable, and they have varying prices too. This is sadly something to consider as dentistry is not fully covered by the NHS and you will be charged for your fillings (I’ve often wondered why eyes and teeth are classed apart from other illnesses and why we have to pay for those but not broken bones or cancer treatment, but that’s another story).
Research carried out by the international dental website dentaly.org, found that the average UK adult has a total of SEVEN fillings. That is not good news at all. Considering that we have thirty-two teeth, then a quarter or so of them have holes in!
We like to think that we are healthier than our transatlantic cousins, and for the most part we are, but not where teeth are concerned. The average American has only three fillings – less than half the amount we do over here in Britain.
This is an important question, and the answer depends on two things: how many fillings you have and what they are made of. The most common fillings (and the cheapest) are made from a mixture of materials including mercury, which is poisonous. Scientists have discovered that people who have eight or more fillings have levels of mercury in their blood which are two and a half times the norm. This makes brain, heart, and kidney disease more likely. So, not looking after your teeth, and not being able to afford the most expensive filings, can indeed be bad for your health.
So, what have we learned? Well, most children it seems do not have any fillings. This is very good news, not only for their oral health but for their life expectancy in general. We have also found that the more fillings you have, the more of a risk to your health. All the more reason to make sure you look after your teeth. Brush at least twice a day and floss too. The benefits are more than just having healthy teeth.EXPLORE THE WORLD OF CHILDREN’S SURVEYS
Here are the results from the 1,553 children who answered our question "How many fillings do you have?" The survey was conducted in the week ending 30th May 2021.
|How many fillings do you have?||Percentage of Respondents|
|Three or more||10%|
|I don’t know||30%|