Time to brush at nurseries

Nurseries have been urged to set up tooth-brushing schemes in an effort to tackle tooth decay. Thousands of young children every year require teeth to be removed due to tooth decay. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) called for nurseries and schools to take a greater role in tackling poor oral hygiene.

Scotland and Wales already have supervised tooth brushing and fluoride varnishing programmes, but it seems England is lagging behind when it comes to tackling the growing problem of tooth decay in children.

Scotland’s supervised tooth brushing schemes is already part of the daily routine for all nurseries in Scotland, with a report finding the initiative has saved more than £6m in dental costs. This programme is run by Childsmile and was set up in 2001 and costs around £1.8m a year. A study carried out by the University of Glasgow found that in the 10 years since it started the cost of treating dental disease fell by over 50 per cent.

Wales has a national programme called Designed to Smile, which offers tooth brushing and fluoride varnish programmes for young children in nurseries and schools where they have high levels of tooth decay. This was set up in 2009 with an investment of £12 million.

Chief dental officer for Wales, David Thomas says: “While it is still too early to gauge the full impact of Designed to Smile, there has been some encouraging progress. Across all social groups, dental disease levels in children are decreasing. This contrasts with previous dental surveys, when reductions in levels of tooth decay were usually associated with widening inequality.

“Crucially, we are seeing fewer children experiencing decay, not just a reduction in the number of teeth affected among those children with tooth decay.

“The dental health of children in Wales is amongst the worst in the United Kingdom. Daily tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste is an effective means of helping to prevent tooth decay however, for many children cleaning their teeth or having their teeth cleaned does not form part of their daily routine.”

Dr Sandra White, director of Dental Public Health at Public Health England, says: “Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in England, yet it is largely preventable. Whilst children’s oral health has improved over the past 40 years, one in eight (12 per cent) three-year-olds have suffered from the disease which can be very painful and even result in a child having teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

“Oral health is everyone’s responsibility and by expanding oral health education to the wider community so that nurseries, children’s centres and primary schools all play a role we can reduce dental decay and ultimately improve the oral health of the local population.”

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