The British Dental Association (BDA) welcomes new guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to help local authorities tackle high levels of tooth decay in children.
Around £30 million is spent every year in England to remove decayed teeth in young people under 18 years.
The BDA urges government and local authorities to invest in effective intervention measures in areas with persistently high levels of tooth decay.
John Milne, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘The NICE guidance underlines the fact that oral health should be a priority for everyone, and prevention needs to start at home.
‘Before many children even reach school age the damage has already been done.
‘Tooth decay is the number one cause of hospital admissions in under-fives: we can’t afford to let our children slip through the cracks.
‘Parents, educators and health visitors need to work together on diet and make brushing with fluoride toothpaste a habit for life.
‘Child tooth decay has a high and growing cost, in terms of treatment, school absences, and parents being pulled out of work.’
The BDA believes local authorities should consider water fluoridation as part of an effective intervention measure, because it remains one of the cheapest, safest and most effective measures in preventing the condition.
Numerous studies show that children who live in fluoridated areas, such as the West Midlands, where the water has been fluoridated for many years, have much lower levels of tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas.
The BDA also states that local authorities should have access to specialist dental health advice to ensure that the intervention measures used are the most appropriate for their populations.
Dr Christopher Allen, chair of the BDA’s Dental Public Health Committee, said: ‘Despite improvements in children’s dental health, there are still unacceptable inequalities affecting school attendance and quality of life that need to be tackled.
‘Since tooth decay is largely a preventable disease, the vast sums spent on extracting decayed teeth would be better invested on effective interventions, including water fluoridation.’