DORSET is above both the national and regional average for the number of children aged under 5 with dental problems.

Public Health England (PHE) figures show that 24.8 per cent of children in Dorset have decayed, missing or filled teeth by the time they are five years-old.

These figures are above average compared to the 24.7 per cent average for the whole of England, and one in five children (21.7 per cent) for the South West.

Dentists in Dorset are working with PHE to raise awareness, and help parents change the snacks and drinks they give their children.

PHE's Change4Life campaign advertises families to look for '100 calories snacks, 2 a day max', after research showed children were eating nearly three times the recommended amount of sugar, with half coming from snacks and sugary drinks.

Weight gain and obesity is linked with too much sugar, as is painful tooth decay.

Retired dentist, Hilary Warren said: "It doesn't surprise me.

"There is not enough funding, and the education for parents and children is poor.

"Teachers and headteachers should be teaching children this to help.

"I would recommend drinking water between meals, and you can't go wrong."

To help improve people's knowledge, dentists from the region are signing up to the Change4Life public health campaign.

With the help of the Top Tips for Teeth dental toolkit, they are sharing messages and advice with parents who come into their surgeries about the best ways to prevent tooth decay in children.

Advice from dentists is:

* Reduce sugar

* Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste

* Get regular dental checks from an early age

Dentist Sara Banuri from DK Dental Practice & Lab said: "We would recommend to parents to keep more healthy diets for their children, with less sugar.

"We would recommend that they make their children brush twice a day, and drink fluoride water if they can."

Dentists' top tips for parents are:

* Be snack smart- eat less sugar, less often

* See the dentist- as soon as the first tooth comes through

* Get the most from your toothbrush- brush as soon as the first tooth shows itself

For more information on healthier snacks, visit the Change4Life website.