Never look a Czech in the mouth

Who does not hate this sound? Yes, it's a dentist's drill and it seems that Czechs will have to hear this sound more often than they'd like, as tooth decay, especially among children, is getting worse and worse. Pavla Horakova has the details.

According to a recent survey carried out by the Czech Dental Research Institute, the average Czech goes through only one toothbrush a year, while experts recommend replacing your toothbrush every two or three months. No wonder the state of teeth in the Czech population is below the European standard. According to the Czech Dental Research Institute only people from the former Soviet Union, Poland and the Balkans have worse teeth than Czechs. Prague-based dentist Rudolf Spacek is very critical of his compatriots' hygiene habits.

"The culture of hygiene in the Czech Republic is not very high. It's not as bad as for example in Eastern Europe but not as good as in Western Europe. It's a typical Central European problem, like in Poland, Slovakia, Hungary. I think the common Czechs don't care about their appearance, they think the most important thing is just what they have inside."

It's not only bad hygiene that's to blame. Children in particular are badly affected by the fact that a national preventive care system fell apart after the fall of communism. While it was compulsory for a child to see a dentist twice a year before 1989, now it's up to the parents to make sure their children have their teeth seen to. Doctor Spacek again.

"After the revolution about 95 percent of dentists, including paediatric dentists, became private. That's a big problem for the future because children now in the Czech Republic don't see their dentists and they have so many problems with caries, cavities and also gum problems, inflammation. Also interesting is the change of lifestyle."

Eating habits have changed significantly after 1989 and Czech children have more access to sugary junk food and sweet drinks, which have a detrimental effect on the quality of their teeth. Experts recommend that children should be taught the basics of dental hygiene as soon as possible and parents should bring their offspring to see the dentist at the age of two just to check everything is all right. In order to raise awareness of the necessity to take proper care about one's teeth, the Czech Chamber of Dentists is running a special project over the summer. Mobile dental surgeries are travelling around the country and children and their parents are welcome to drop in for a check-up and more information about dental care. There is a tube of toothpaste waiting for every child and a teddy bear if they answer a quiz.