Twelve percent of children have woken up from a nightmare about their oral health, according to the Oral Health Foundation (OHF). Its data, from a study of approximately 1,500 British parents, suggest that today’s children are more than 10 times more likely to suffer from bad dreams about their teeth than adults.
The study also noted that nightmares about the mouth are more common earlier years, affecting 18% of children age 5 and under. Plus, 47% of children have expressed anxieties about their oral health to their parents, with this number rising for children under the age of 5.
Dr. Nigel Carter, OBE, chief executive of the OHF, believes younger children are becoming more conscious of the appearance of their teeth, which is causing unnecessary and harmful stress.
“It is really common for children between the ages of 3 and 5 to suffer from nightmares. This is the time when their imagination begins to develop and, along with the experiences they collect throughout the day, can influence the state of their dreams,” Carter said.
Younger children are being exposed to more television and social media, where the aesthetics of smile do not represent what can be considered normal or naturally achievable. This paints a false image of what their teeth should look like and can create lasting insecurities,” Carter said.
“With more video calls to family and friends, especially during lockdown, children are also seeing themselves on screen far more often. This too makes them more conscious of their appearance,” said Carter.
The study also found that 18% of children have opened up to their parents about not liking their smile. The OHF said it is extremely concerned by the findings, as 29% of children under the age of 5 also have spoken to their parents about changing the appearance of their smile.
The OHF conducted the research as part of National Smile Month, which aims to raise awareness about the value of good oral health. As part of the campaign, the OHF is giving advice to parents and families about how to maintain a healthy smile.
“The best approach to tackle any insecurities a child has about their smile is to introduce children to oral health education at the earliest age possible,” said Carter.
“By teaching children basic lessons about oral health, why we have teeth and how to keep them clean, we reassure them that the best teeth are not necessarily the straightest or whitest, but the ones that are healthy,” said Carter.
“There are so many online learning programs and activities that can make oral health education fun and appealing. By teaching children at home about how to achieve good oral health, you can help boost their confidence and reduce any anxieties they may have about their smile,” Carter said.
The OHF Dental Buddy program can be downloaded for free on its website. Dental Buddy includes games, lesson plans, and activities for children from the Early Years Foundation stage up to Key Stage 2.