The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) has urged MPs on the House of Commons Health Select Committee to take measures to reduce the ‘alarming proportion’ of children in England suffering from disproportionately high levels of tooth decay.
In the written submission to the committee, the BSPD says members unanimously believe that the oral health of some children in England is a matter of grave concern.
The evidence-based submission has been compiled by Helen Rodd, professor and honorary consultant in paediatric dentistry, who says in her summary: ‘It is a sad reflection on society that the greatest levels of disease are seen in those from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families.’
She refers to the survey of the oral health of three-year-olds in England, published by Public Health England (PHE) last year, which provided important insights into the decay experience of pre-school children:
- 12% of three-year-olds had visible tooth decay
- There was a dramatic variation in decay experience in different regions, from 2% to 34%
- Those affected had an average of three decayed teeth.
Her report draws attention to shortages in the specialist workforce.
It claims that not only is there an inadequate paediatric dentistry workforce to meet the current needs of the child population in England, there has been a recent loss of existing posts at a time when dentists need to be able to refer children and young people to a specialist.
The report concludes with recommendations for the following to be introduced:
- National commissioning of children’s dental services as soon as possible
- Preventive interventions for all children with an intensified regimen for pre-school aged children living in areas of greatest deprivation
- Government-led policy to educate and legislate against sugar consumption
- Access for all children to the dental care professionals who are best able to meet their needs as well as equitable access to high quality general anaesthetic and sedation services and emergency services when needed.
Professor Rodd says: ‘We need policy-makers on side to tackle the alarming proportion of children suffering from dental decay.
‘This entirely preventable disease can lead to life-long negative impacts, affecting health and well-being, and places a wider burden on families and the health service.’