Charity helping in the battle against tooth decay

KidsNational charity, 4Children, is working in partnership with Public Health England to explore the feasibility of a supervised toothbrushing programme for the under-fives, based in their early years’ setting.

The programme seeks to improve children’s oral health by creating a fun, group environment for toothbrushing, setting the foundations for positive oral hygiene in later life.

The charity is exploring the practical implications of this programme in more than 70 nurseries and 20 childminder settings, reaching more than 5,500 young children. Considerations include potential costs, the impact on staff, the resources required, information for the settings, engagement with parents, partnerships with dental surgeries and the projected benefits to children’s oral health.

The findings will be highlighted and discussed at the 4Children Healthy Children, Bright Futures conference on 16 June.

Sue Robb, head of early years at 4Children said: ‘We have an oral health crisis among our under-fives that is set to get worse without immediate intervention. It is unacceptable that tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital general anaesthetic admissions for children under five. Provided that children have a good approach to oral hygiene, tooth decay is preventable.

‘Early years’ settings have been really keen to take part, recognising the powerful impact they can have in shaping young children’s attitudes towards toothbrushing and making it a fun activity they can share with friends.

‘4Children’s Healthy Children, Bright Futures conference will be a good forum for finding out more about this programme and other ways in which we can help build healthier habits into our children – from oral hygiene to nutrition and physical activity.’

Eustace de Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families, Public Health England, said: ‘Regular, supervised toothbrushing is an effective way of avoiding so many children in England having to undergo painful medical procedures for tooth extraction.

‘Early years’ settings have an important role to play in promoting public health messages, including the importance of good oral hygiene. By working together across health, education and the voluntary and community sector, we can take the important steps needed to work together with families and ensure every child has the best start in life.’

Worrying facts about children’s oral health in the UK:

  • Latest figures from Public Health England show that almost a quarter of five-year-olds are suffering from tooth decay
  • Analysis by the Local Government Association shows that the cost of children’s tooth extractions in hospitals has increased by over 60% in the past five years
  • Left untreated, tooth decay can be painful and lead to difficulties with eating, speaking and sleeping
  • Children who experience early childhood caries are much more likely to develop subsequent problems, including an increased risk of further caries in both their primary and permanent teeth.

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