The world-famous Lord’s Cricket Ground provided a stunning backdrop to the Dental Wellness Trust’s Saving Kids’ Teeth 2017 conference in November. Tag-lined ‘integrated health factors’, the conference stressed the emphasis of a multidisciplinary approach to improving child oral health in the UK.
The speakers represented a range of backgrounds linked to children’s health, including dentistry, paediatric medicine, nutrition, and public health, but with one common goal: to galvanise the attendees – dental care professionals and dental students – into playing their parts in the improvement of child oral healthcare.
The Dental Wellness Trust’s Saving Kids’ Teeth campaign aims to implement strategies for the integration of healthcare providers, to address the growing issue of child tooth extractions under general anaesthesia as a result of severe tooth decay.
Tooth extraction is the number one procedure carried out on children aged five to nine in hospitals in England, according to NHS Digital, with 24,945 procedures carried out on five- to nine-year-olds in 2015/16, and 9,220 procedures carried out on one- to four-year-olds over the same period.
Integrated health factors
The Dental Wellness Trust’s founder, Dr Linda Greenwall, provided the opening address to the one-day conference, and was followed by a full day of talks, lectures, and sessions from experts in paediatric health:
• Professor Jenny Gallagher MBE, head of population and patient health, and dental public health, at King’s College London
• Mike Harrison, consultant paediatric dentist
• Dr Sandra White, director of public health at Public Health England
• Dr Caroline Fertleman, consultant paediatrician at The Whittington Hospital
• Professor Terence Stephenson, consultant paediatrician and chair of the GMC
• Dr Milad Shadrooh, ‘The Singing Dentist’
• Dr Kathy Harley, consultant in paediatric dentistry
• Professor Robert Hill, Institute of Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London
• Alice Grasveld, medical anthropologist and oral hygienist
• Kawther Hashem, nutritionist from Action on Sugar.
Each speaker addressed ways to integrate oral healthcare across the health spectrum, offering new, fresh, and insightful strategies. For example, consultant paediatric dentist, Mike Harrison, pressed the need for doctors to ’care’ about children’s teeth, discussing how GPs and paediatric doctors can act on oral health prevention.
Mike reprehended pharmaceutical companies for their role in child tooth decay, and encouraged delegates to write to their local MPs to lobby paediatric medicine-makers to reduce the amount of sugar in children’s medications.
Dr Sandra White presented ‘More fluoride, less sugar – working together to improve child dental health’, reiterating the benefits of added fluoride to children’s oral health: ‘Fluoride varnish should go on every child’s teeth’, she said. ‘But we’re not all doing it. Currently, less than 40% of children have fluoride varnish on their teeth.’
Dr White cited evidence showing that in areas with fluoridated water, children suffered 28% less tooth decay and 55% fewer extractions than areas with no added fluoride in the water supply.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Caroline Fertleman presented an animated and interactive session on safeguarding vulnerable children, demonstrating that some children in the care of dental professionals require more than just oral care. Several exercises prompted the audience to question how they might recognise signs of child abuse in paediatric patients, and the next steps to take if such situations were to arise.
The multidisciplinary conference tackled other issues related to children’s healthcare, including nutrition and the need to reduce sugar intake, and reducing childhood obesity.
Dr Linda Greenwall closed the day by encouraging attendees to implement appropriate safeguarding protocols into daily clinical practice, to establish referral pathways amongst healthcare providers in their local area, and to implement preventive programmes for clinical practice and the wider community.