Spotting dental demineralisation early

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CALCIVIS’ Bruce Vernon discusses the “Missing piece of the prevention puzzle” in child oral health

Ongoing analysis into children’s dental heath is important. With every positive piece of news – the last survey from Public Health England on the dental health of five-year-olds confirmed the downward trend in childhood decay is continuing [1] – we seem to take one step back. For example, despite the improvements, in 2017 the Royal College of Surgeons reported a 24% increase in extractions for children aged 0–4 years in the last decade [2].

In last Child Dental Health (CDH) Survey, 58% of 12-year-olds said their daily life had been affected by their oral health problems [3]. So if an adolescent or teen had poor oral health as a child, they might not have to wait long to see the impact.

We must go back to the central tenets of good, preventive dentistry – effective daily cleaning, regular appointments and a healthy diet – and look at new ways to support them. Education for families is key. Engaging with and educating parents and carers will help change attitudes and enable positive, proactive behaviours. When it comes to regular appointments, there may be confusion over the fact that NHS dentistry is free to under-18s. If a family has chosen private dentistry, they may not think regular check-ups are a priority when there is no visible problem or pain.

The latest CHD survey found that geographical areas with higher levels of deprivation tend to have high levels of childhood decay. Practices in these areas must work with local schools and social institutions to help children in these communities understand why they must visit the dentist regularly. With regards to good food choices; the consumption of sugary food and drink isn’t exclusive to poorer families. The problem of ‘hidden’ sugars in meals that regularly appear on the dinner table (in some shop-bought pasta sauces, for example) is one that the government is trying to tackle with its so-called ‘sugar tax’. Learning how to clean properly is key. Brushing should be supervised, too – good technique will become second nature if children are taught early.

Active demineralisation demonstrated by the CALCIVIS imaging system

As for that missing puzzle piece, new technology can support clinicians in practicing preventive care, by helping them detect active demineralisation at an early stage, and therefore possibly prevent caries. CALCIVIS is an imaging system that can be used with patients from the age of six. The concept is both simple and non-invasive – a photoprotein which produces light as a reaction to the presence of free calcium ions released from actively demineralising tooth surfaces. The dentist can then recommend action to minimise further damage and repair the enamel structure (if appropriate) using non-surgical methods.

Improving children’s oral health is central to preventive dentistry. Instruct and support good habits to stop decay in its tracks at an early age and you will reduce the risk of serious dental problems in later life and also help an individual avoid chronic illnesses associated with poor mouth hygiene [4].

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1] Public Health England. National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England: oral health survey of five-year-old children 2015: A report on the prevalence and severity of dental decay. Published May 2016. Link: (accessed October 2017).
2] Shocking 24% increase in tooth extractions performed on children aged 0-4 in last decade. Royal College of Surgeons, 21 March 2017. Link: click HERE(accessed October 2017).
3] Child Dental Health Survey 2013. HSCIS, 19 March, 2015. Link:  (accessed October 2017).
4] Benjamin RM. Oral health: the silent epidemic. Public Health Reports. 2010 Mar; 125 (2): 158.

Photo by Alicia Jones on Unsplash