Note from FAN: Ireland is the only country that mandates fluoridation of the public drinking water, which began in the early 1960s.

“Most parents believe it is fine to wait for a visit until a child is in primary school or has his or her first toothache,” said Dr Rose-Marie Daly, a consultant in paediatric dentistry in Tralee, Co Kerry.

“At that stage, we look for early signs of disease and factors such as risky feeding practices, fluoride use and habits that can affect the development of the teeth such as soothers. This is evidence-based, not a belief. By the age of three years, almost 30pc will have decay experience.

“Typically in small children, they get severe and aggressive dental disease. We look at dietary habits, the quality of teeth and saliva, fluoride exposure and bacterial plaque on the teeth, and any developmental defects in teeth which increase the risk of decay.”

“I also clean the teeth and apply fluoride to prevent decay at that stage although no all dentists do.”

Dr Daly said: “If you are looking at prevention measures, these are done on a risk assessment basis. Calculating a child’s risk of decay can involve the shape of the tooth, enamel, saliva and the child’s eating habits.

“Hygiene for young children’s teeth is a skill that parents often need help with,” said Dr Daly.

“Children who have dried fruit and biscuits for lunch are more likely to have cavities. Cheese and unsweetened dairy help neutralise acid in the mouth and fruit, only in moderation, is good.”