Michael Sultan is concerned about bizarre dental “news” in the national press
There was a recent report in a very popular national newspaper that suggested parents who kiss their children on the lips may be increasing the risk of childhood dental decay by passing on caries-causing bacteria . The expert paediatric dentist who highlighted this issue suggested that parents should stop kissing their children on the lips – and even stop blowing on their food – lest they spread oral bacteria. The article was, frankly, mind-boggling – and exactly the type of sensationalist story that we, as a profession, do not need.
Such stories will ultimately cause us (and our patients) more harm than good. Yes, the article does go on to say that the best way to avoid spreading dental bacteria to children – besides not kissing them or blowing on their food or cleaning their dummy by putting it in your mouth – is to ensure that parents look after their own teeth: sound advice by any standards. But that only comes at the end of the article, wrapped up in an over-the-top story that misinforms our patients.
Why is this kind of story so prevalent? It's not as though we need to make dentistry even harder for ourselves – it's hard enough! Which is why it's so baffling that a trained dental professional is prepared to support such a story on a national level. Do they not realise the potential for damage they might cause?
Of course, the blame doesn’t always fall on the researchers, and this may be one of those cases where the journalist just wants to create a quick story with a sensationalist headline without thinking about the consequences. But even so, researchers should be careful about the messages they send out – especially in national newspapers. They need to be aware of the damage they can cause.
I've written before about the need for better dental education for our patients – and I firmly believe this is the best approach to improving people's oral health. But we need to approach this reasonably, with pertinent information, not bizarre stories like this one.
As a profession, we have a responsibility to support and educate our patients. We have a responsibility to do research and present our findings to as many people as possible, to ensure that they are armed with the most up-to-date and relevant information that will help them improve their own oral health. We need to do more to impress upon the country that the dental profession is vital, that the work we do can only be done by us – and that it works.
We need to combat every sensationalist article with good common sense, with scientific education and excellent practise, to make sure we are regarded as the experts that we are. If we carry on telling parents that they need to stop kissing their children or blowing on their food we open ourselves and our profession to ridicule and scorn from the people who need our help. If we allow such ridiculous stories to be presented as fact on a national level again and again, we won't be believed when we have something worthwhile to say.
Dr Michael Sultan, is principal and founder of EndoCare, one of the UK’s most trusted specialist direct access and referral endodontic practices. Using the latest technologies and techniques his highly-trained team offer exceptional standards of care – always putting the patient first. For more information call EndoCare on 020 7224 0999, or visit www.endocare.co.uk
1] The Daily Mail: Kissing your kids on the lips could rot their teeth! Dentist warns parents risk passing on damaging bacteria to their children: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5439047/Kissing-children-pass-bacteria-young-ones.html#ixzz59BwygXim