'Bad parents' blasted over tooth decay levels; Fillings for toddlers and some can't even use toothbrush.
A POLITICIAN today claimed "bad parenting" was responsible for shocking levels of tooth decay among children in South Wales.
Former coalfield areas have some of the highest levels of decay among five-year-olds in the country.
In Merthyr Tydfil, five-year-old children have an average of almost two-and-a-half decayed, missing or filled teeth.
And the county borough and neighbouring Rhondda Cynon Taf have the highest numbers of five-year-olds who have had teeth removed under general an aesthetic.
Jonathan Morgan, AM for Cardiff North and the Conservatives' shadow health minister, said: "Looking after a child's teeth is fundamentally important - not looking after their teeth is as bad as allowing them to go outdoors without shoes.
"Why do we tolerate it when parents do not ensure that their children's teeth are clean?
"We have to get real and accept that some parents out there are not doing their jobs properly."
Dentists have told Media Wales it is "not unusual" to have to fill three-year-old's milk teeth and that some children in the Valleys do not recognise the taste of toothpaste or know how to use a toothbrush.
David Thomas, a consultant in dental public health at the National Public Health Service for Wales, said: "We have a major problem in Wales and in the most deprived parts of Wales children have the worst teeth.
"Children who have decay in their milk teeth get decay in their permanent teeth - the same picture of decay in five-year-olds is seen in 12-year-olds.
"We know that children living in the most deprived areas eat more sugar and eat less healthy food.
"It is also patently clear that they do not have the same oral health hygiene and go to the dentist less. It is very sad.
"For dysfunctional families, one of the last priorities is to go to the dentist.
"When they do, these children usually turn up at the dentists' door with toothache and five or six teeth that need to be removed."
The Welsh Assembly Government will teach children as young as three how to brush their teeth in large areas of South Wales as part of its pounds 4.6m Designed to Smile scheme.
Dr Paul Langmaid, Wales' chief dental officer, added: "Parents have a key role to play in encouraging and teaching their children about the importance of cleaning their teeth regularly.
"The oral health of children is worst in deprived areas.
"This is unacceptable when dental decay is avoidable simply by improving diet and nutrition and encouraging young children to develop the habit of brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste."