starting wellStarting Well, a new innovative programme to ensure children receive better dental advice, has been launched by the Government.

The programme will help dental teams go out into the community and teach children in high-risk areas about the importance of oral health and encourage parents to take their children to the dentist.

Dental teams will offer this through supporting children’s centres events, supporting tooth brushing clubs in early years settings and supporting health fairs and schools parents’ evenings where these are not already provided.

‘Oral health is improving but too many children still experience pain, discomfort and days off school due to dental decay – particularly in deprived areas,’ Sandra White, national lead for dental public health, said.

‘Getting the right advice and treatment, such as reducing sugar and using fluoride toothpaste, can be a challenge for many busy families.

‘Targeted programmes like Starting Well can help improve children’s oral health and give them the best start in life.’

Disappointing

The British Dental Association (BDA) has accused the Government of taking credit for the good work of local authorities without any further investment.

It has accused the Government of letting down children in England by not investing in the Starting Well programme, saying it should be following the example of successful dedicated national efforts in Scotland (Childsmile) and Wales (Designed to Smile).

‘As the BDA played an important role as part of the steering group for Starting Well, it is surprising and disappointing to see these negative comments,’ Sara Hurley, CDO for England, responded.

‘The NHS has worked with the dental profession, local authorities and health providers to develop Starting Well, which will help thousands more children to get to a dentist sooner and improve their dental health.’

Dental Check by One

In 2016 26,000 children visited hospital with tooth decay, making it the most common reason for a hospital admission in children.

Currently around a quarter (24.7%) of five-year-olds in England experience tooth decay and 33% of under fives have visited a dentist.

Through Starting Well toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste packs will be given to children in the local community who are at risk of tooth decay.

‘Starting Well is a very important initiative and the BSPD welcomes its launch wholeheartedly,’ Claire Stevens, president of the British Society Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), said.

‘It provides the opportunity for dentists to work innovatively in their communities, reaching out to all the professionals who work with young families with consistent messages in relation to prevention.

‘We are delighted that Dental Check by One is an important part of the scheme and look forward to seeing the improvements in children’s oral health which must surely ensue.

‘We hope that ultimately the learning points from Starting Well will be rolled out into all areas of the UK.’