tooth decayTooth decay is the number one reason children attend hospitals in Wales, a new study has shown.

The study has found that five-year-old children in Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf experience the highest rates of dental decay in Wales.

The results come after Cwm Taf University Health Board launched its ‘Baby teeth do matter’ campaign in Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf, to help highlight the importance of children adopting health oral health habits from an early age.

‘Many people think that baby teeth don’t matter because the teeth are going to fall out anyway and be replaced with a second set, but they do matter,’ a spokesperson for Cwm Taf University Health Board said.

‘Baby teeth are very important to a child’s health and development.

‘When baby teeth are lost too early then the guide for the permanent teeth is lost and the space available for the second teeth can be reduced.

‘Having poor oral health can affect children’s ability to eat, sleep, speak, can lead to pain and infection and being admitted to hospital for general anaesthetic.’

‘Careless’

BDA Wales has reacted to the figures saying the Designed to Smile budget is being spread too thin.

The Designed to Smile programme was launched in 2009 to help educate children on the importance of their oral health.

BDA Wales has claimed the £4 million budget for Designed to Smile is now being spread too thinly and there needs to be a refocus on children in early years, particularly in areas of high deprivation.

‘This research shows that despite welcome efforts, the Welsh authorities must do more on child tooth decay,’ David Johnson, chair of the Welsh Committee for Community Dentists, said.

‘Designed to Smile has made real headway, so we are disappointed to see the Welsh Government trying to spread its limited budget too thinly.

‘A greater focus on preschool infants is welcome, but officials should not be undermining the current programme in primary schools to achieve it.

‘This approach looks careless, and risks undoing the tangible improvements secured over the last decade.

‘The Welsh Government now needs to go that extra mile on prevention, provide sustainable investment in child oral health and let go of the Government targets that have failed patients.

‘Let’s ensure Designed to Smile can really thrive, and that our NHS dentists are armed with a genuinely preventive contract.’