One in four Norfolk toddlers suffering from serious tooth decay - but could Sesame Street’s Elmo be the answer?

The extent of children's tooth decay in Norfolk has been revealed. Image: PA

The extent of children's tooth decay in Norfolk has been revealed. Image: PA - Credit: PA

As the extent of children's tooth decay is revealed, polly grice reports on how the East leads the way, but Norfolk falls behind

Toddlers in Norfolk are losing teeth to decay and having fillings at just three years old, according to a national study.

Statistics from Public Health England show three-year-olds in the East of England have the lowest rates of tooth decay of any region in England, with just 8pc showing obvious signs.

The figure is below the national average, which reveals 12pc of three-year-olds have severely decayed teeth, lost teeth due to decay or have had fillings.

In Norfolk though, the figure rises to one in four, and the county has the highest rate of child tooth decay of any local authority in the East, except for Luton, with nearly four in five children affected.

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Norfolk County Council Public Health Consultant Dr Shamsher Diu said: 'Overall when we look at information for children and adults we know that oral health has been improving over the last few years.

'Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in England, yet it is largely preventable.

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'Parents need to start brushing their children's teeth as soon as the teeth appear usually when the baby is around six months. Parents should use a fluoride toothpaste and brush their teeth twice a day.

'If baby teeth are decayed and are extracted then this can cause many problems such as abscesses and the adult teeth to drift and come out in the wrong position, this could mean more unnecessary orthodontic treatment.'

Figures vary aound the county, in Norwich three in five children have decayed, missing or filled teeth, in Great Yarmouth two in five children are affected, and one in ten suffers in Broadland.

Advisory board the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said local authorities should now step in to tackle the problem, a sentiment echoed by the Norfolk Local Dental Committee.

Committee Secretary Nick Stolls, 57, works at a dental practice in Harleston and said the key was prevention rather than cure.

'Norfolk is not doing as well as the rest of the younty, but it's still not doing too badly,' he said.

'What we have often found with tooth decay in very small children is it's often associated with areas of deprivation.

'Parents should be pleaning their children's teeth with fluoride toothpaste and if they have anything to drink after that it should be water.

'Cleaning teeth twice a day is important, and if children are having something sugary to eat, it should be at a meal time.

'Children shouldn't be put to bed with a bottle of sugary drink.'

• David Powles: How we turned to Elmo in the hope of keeping decay at bay

A major operation to remove more than a dozen teeth at the age of 13, which meant a stay in hospital, weeks of agony and still the need for a brace, has left me with a fear of dentists even more irrational than your average human.

And while I am desperate this fear isn't transferred to my toddler son - I do worry as much about the health and well-being of his gnashers as I do mine. The hope is that will be a good thing, ensuring his teeth are well looked after, clean and disease free - keeping nasty trips to the dentists to a minimum.

If that's the case the recurring dreams of grinding teeth or teeth falling out (his and mine) will be more than worth the while.

But that's a while off, because at this moment in time the battle isn't to keep his ever developing teeth free from the need of dental attention - just to get him to clean them in the first place.

At nearly two-years-old the last thing the boy wants to be doing is letting either myself or his mum anywhere near him with a toothbrush.

It was getting to the point where every attempt was met with furious headshakes and tiny tantrums. It seems lazy parenting isn't the only thing that stops toddlers from brushing twice a day.

Just as we were reaching our wits end, saviour arrived with a recommendation from a friend. So now that stubborn toddler brushes his teeth twice every single day - but only if we let him do so accompanied by Elmo from Sesame Street's Brushy Brush song. Thank heavens for kids TV.

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