Free toothbrushes for kids – and lessons in brushing

Children under three in Wales will be taught how to brush their teeth.

They will also be given free toothbrushes and toothpaste to take home with them in a bid to improve children’s oral health where more than half of them have tooth decay.

The Welsh Assembly Government has announced extra funding to extend its flagship oral health scheme –it will be extended to other Communities First areas for three to five-year-olds and, in the super pilot areas, to six and seven- year-olds.

Dental health support workers oversee a supervised tooth-brushing programme in schools and provide toothbrushes and toothpaste to school children along with oral health advice.

Part of this service is delivered via mobile dental health units that provide specialist preventive care and treatment to schools.

Assembly Government funding for Designed to Smile will rise to £3.1 million this year and to more than £3.8 million in 2010-11.

Health Minister Edwina Hart, who will launch the extended scheme in Swansea, said: ‘The rates of tooth decay in parts of Wales are too high and need to be tackled.

‘This additional funding for the Designed to Smile scheme will carry on and enhance the good work done in the pilot areas and extend it across the whole of Wales.

‘There is a significant role for parents to play, but we know that for many children at greatest risk of dental decay, cleaning their teeth or having their teeth cleaned does not form part of their daily routine.

‘It is clear that more direct and also more innovative methods of delivering preventive care are necessary if advances in child oral health are to be made.

‘By teaching children the importance of good oral health at an early age, they will develop good habits they will carry on into adulthood.’

Stuart Geddes, director of the British Dental Association in Wales, said: ‘In principle this is great and I’m glad to see the Assembly Government is putting money into it.

‘This is about good practice and also getting the tooth-brushing message into the family; hopefully it will get the message across to mums so it can be taken back.

‘One episode of oral health education is not going to work unless it is taken back home.’

Mr Geddes added: ‘This is a help but what I’d like to see is a really comprehensive oral hygiene programme rolled out to school children until they are 16. While I appreciate that is beyond the costs of providing this scheme, the benefits would, in the long-term, save money for the NHS because we would get subsequent reductions in treatment.”

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