Fund toothbrushing programmes, government told
UK charity Dental Wellness Trust is calling on the government to make the funding of supervised tooth-brushing programmes an urgent priority across all UK nurseries and primary schools.
This could potentially reduce tooth decay in children by up to 30%.
Given that approximately 36,500 children are admitted to hospital each year for tooth extractions at an average cost of £836 per child for a general anaesthetic(equating to approximately £30.5million of government spend), implementing nationwide oral health education initiatives and supervised tooth brushing programmes could save the NHS nearly £30million pounds.
To put this into context, a new national independent surveyby the charity has revealed that an astonishing 24.7% of parents are at risk of neglecting their child’s wellbeing by being unconcerned that their child is at risk of tooth decay if they don’t’ brush their teeth regularly. This reiterates the need for additional parental oral health education opportunities in order to emphasise the importance of the issue at hand.
Whilst 16.2% of parents take their child to the dentist every twelve months (as opposed to the recommended every six months), more worryingly 7.4% of parents have never taken their child to a dentist at all despite the recommendation by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry for all children to have a dental check by the age of one.
Their reasons included being 'too scared', saying it was too difficult to get an appointment and/or their children’s dental health is not a top priority or concern – again the latter is directly associated with neglect. Despite this, 82.9% of parents and 76.2% of teachers agree that compulsory tooth brushing should be included as part of the health education curriculum.
Furthermore, the Dental Wellness Trust is calling for all professionals that have regular interaction with children to be on high alert for possible safeguarding where cases are found of severe dental decay – with responsibility not lying solely with social services.
Where parents or carers repeatedly fail to access dental treatment for a child’s tooth decay or leave dental pain untreated, alarm bells should ring for all those working with or responsible for children to consider neglect, says the charity.
Additional findings from the independent survey revealed that 62.9% of teachers are very concerned about the state of the children’s teeth at their school/nursery. Shockingly, a further 80.7% of teachers don’t think parents know enough about the importance of dental health.
Dr Linda Greenwall, founder of Dental Wellness Trust says: 'Although tooth decay does not discriminate, there are huge inequalities in oral health with tooth decay being strongly associated with deprivation and social exclusion. Whilst it’s evident that our self-fundedoral health prevention and tooth brushing programmes do work – we urgently need further government funding to continue providing this vital service to all children.
'The cost saving to the government is staggering and we urge decisions makers to fund these schemes and tackle this wholly preventable disease.'
Dr Saul Konviser from the Dental Wellness Trust says: 'Tooth decay remains the leading cause of hospital admissions for children, yet some parents remain oblivious as to the shocking state of their child’s teeth. Every day we, as dentists, see a large number of children that require not just a simple filling but often multiple fillings or extractions. These children can often attend with severe dental infections and swollen faces needing antibiotics or even sedation or a general anaesthetic. It is bordering on dental neglect and, what is worse, is that it is almost completely avoidable. Now is the time to put prevention into practice.'
Yvonne Cadore, Manager at Katharine Bruce Community Nursery adds: 'Both parents and teachers have been very supportive of the tooth brushing programme in our nursery as it has provided the opportunity for children to be taught something essential alongside their friends and maintain good habits. It goes without saying, better dental hygiene taught at an early age will have long term benefits for children’s teeth, less nursery and school days lost and better for the general health and wellbeing of our children.'
Supervised tooth brushing programmes focus on oral health advice and education to teachers by trained professionals together with the distribution of continuous free toothpaste and brush packs for daily brushing in the classroom. They form part of Public Health England’s recommendations as an effective strategy to prevent early childhood decay.
2006 study in Caries Research Journal
Calculation based on an annual cost of approximately £25 per child without the inclusion of teacher training
Total Reach: c. 1,200 people surveyed online via DWT national database & London Early Years Foundation nurseries from 4 March – 3 April 2019. Sample base included parents of young children (school, pre-school & nursery) and teachers of reception & Key Stages 1 & 2
Author: Julie Bissett