Parents in Cumbria are being urged to make their child’s brushing habits a priority after a study revealed many are failing to ensure a good oral hygiene routine.

Countywide research shows that about 10 per cent of people questioned do not take an active part in their child’s daily brushing regime.

On top of that, 14 per cent admitted their children do not brush their teeth twice a day.

The new research, commissioned by private dental plan provider Denplan, targeted parents of children under the age of 12 in Cumbria.

On the plus side, 90 per cent of respondents said they do supervise brushing – and many keep an eye on it well over the recommended age.

In terms of fillings, Cumbria is in line with the national average – with 37 per cent of under-12s having had them.

Carlisle dentist Stephen Jones, the clinical director for NHS Cumbria’s dental service, said he remained cautious about the accuracy of the data. But nevertheless he said the results gave an insight into local dental trends.

Traditionally he said there has been a north/south divide in terms of dental care in England, but that is gradually changing. However the more deprived areas and families continue to be worst hit.

Nationally 100,000 fewer children visited the dentist in 2008 than in 2006, according to latest health service figures.

This has been blamed on the mass exodus of dentists from the NHS three or four years ago, when new contracts were brought in by the Government, hitting Cumbria hard.

Although some agreed to retain their NHS places for children, many parents have found themselves having to pay for private treatment.

But Mr Jones said in Cumbria at least, that is changing with proactive attempts to create more NHS places.

That includes the launch of the new Carlisle Dental Centre, where he practices, and most recently the provision of 30,000 places at new practices across west Cumbria.

Last week NHS Cumbria, which is responsible for dental care in the county, placed an advert in the national British Dental Journal for tenders to open further practices in Carlisle, Keswick and Millom. And Mr Jones believes this approach is the key to ensuring children adopt good dental health routines.

“I would say to parents to take their child to their family dentist as soon as possible, between the ages of six and 12 months so they get used to it from an early age,” he said.

“At that point teeth are still erupting and there is very little chance of decay so the care is treatment feels less threatening. It allows them to develop a relationship with the dental team, who will give them advice on brushing and preventative measures.”

Mr Jones said it may be the case that parents who lost places a few years ago when dentists were leaving the NHS have not gone back.

“There may be some truth that people have got used to the idea that there are no dentists and almost given up on it. But that is no longer the case.“In west cumbria they were desperately short but that is changing with the opening of new practices,” he said.

Anyone who still does not have an NHS dentist should make sure they are registered on the countywide waiting list so health bosses know how many places they still need to find.

Mr Jones added that it is a sad fact that about 80 per cent of dental disease is concentrated in about 20 per cent of the population – mainly in the most deprived areas.

One way to help address this would be further water FLUORIDATION schemes, like in west Cumbria, those these have been controversial. Any decision on this would lie with NHS North West following widespread consultation.

A good dental hygiene regime and regular check-ups are also important to help prevent oral cancer, cases of which have risen by 28 per cent in men and 24 per cent in women since the mid 90s.