The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is calling for urgent implementation of better oral health education to help stop the UK’s children’s oral health crisis.

The call comes following the release of alarming statistics from the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS), which show that tooth extractions in children aged four have increased by 24% in the last decade.

The statistics highlight the appalling state of our children’s oral health, with 9,206 extractions carried out on children aged four and younger between April 2015 and March 2016.

The new figures, which have risen by almost 25% in the last decade, have been labelled ‘scandalous’ by the BSDHT.

Time for reform

The BSDHT fully supports the FDS in identifying children’s sugar consumption as the main cause of the problem and is highlighting the need for an urgent and necessary reform in early year’s education, in order to change the declining spiral of oral health in the UK.

Helen Minnery, president of the BSDHT, commented on the figures: ‘The incredibly sad and upsetting thing is that every single one of these 9,206 cases is entirely preventable; with the correct education and application of a basic oral health routine we should not see a single child with tooth decay so severe that they need to have teeth removed, especially at such an incredibly young age when it can traumatise them for the rest of their lives.

‘As dental professionals, we are faced with the problems far too often and are only too aware of the impact that this can have on the future direction of that child’s oral health. A young child carries early experiences with them throughout their lives and if they experience tooth pain and the trauma of having teeth removed when they are so young, it stays with them, often manifesting as a phobia of the dentist which they may pass onto future generations.

‘No child should have tooth decay to a degree where they need to have their teeth removed, especially when NHS dental treatment is free for under 18’s, yet it is saddening that less than half (42%) of children did not see a dentist in the last year.

‘Preventive dentistry and education can avoid problems developing, where the end result is small children experiencing dental extractions. We have to change mindsets to ensure that this stops. With this in mind, the BSDHT have developed its very own First Smiles initiative.’

First Smiles

The First Smiles programme aims to bring oral health education to young children in their own classrooms.

Now in its third year, First Smiles takes place on Friday 16 June and sees BSDHT members enter schools and nurseries across the UK to deliver engaging, fun and accessible lessons to children on the importance of good oral health, teaching youngsters the necessary habits needed to maintain a healthy smile for life.

Helen added: ‘Whether it’s their first tooth or their first visit to the dentist, a child’s early experiences of oral health can impact on the rest of their lives. That’s why it’s so important to teach them about their mouths and introduce them to good habits as soon as possible.

‘This year we are aiming for our programme to be bigger and better than before. These are not just statistics: they represent reality, with our children’s health at stake. We need your help to ensure important oral health messages reach many more children.’

BSDHT members who wish to take part and make a difference can find out more about First Smiles at www.bsdht.org.uk/FirstSmiles.

To find out more about the benefits of membership with the BSDHT, visit www.bsdht.org.uk/membership.