Emma Morgan discusses how young dentists can get involved with Dental Check by One

Dental Check by One (DCby1) is a campaign led by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), which aims to ensure children attend for their first check-up before their first birthday.

Current data from Public Health England shows that dental decay is affecting even the youngest members of society, with one in eight children aged three, and almost a quarter of five-year-olds, having obvious signs of dental caries.

Many of these children require dental extractions under general anaesthetic, with dental caries being the most common reason for hospital admission in children aged between five and nine. The reality of this is highlighted by the most recent data (from the 2017/18 period), during which 26,111 children required general anaesthetic for dental extractions.

Such levels of dental caries not only impact on dental health, but also have great impact on general health and quality of life.

Reduced burden

Early dental attendance, even before school age, is vital to allow delivery of key preventive messages and reduce the burden of a preventable disease. However, only 19% of children under the age of two accessed NHS dental care in 2017/18. This poses a challenge for dental professionals and impedes our ability to provide preventive messages to the population.

Multiple organisations have pledged their support for DCby1, facilitating the delivery of the DCby1 message from all healthcare professionals and hopefully increasing access to NHS dental care.

As the future of the dental workforce, students and young dentists play a significant role in ensuring the long-term success of DCby1. Not only must the impending workforce be aware of DCby1, but they must also be prepared to deliver preventive advice, which is integral in any treatment plan.

Evidence-based documents – such as Delivering Better Oral Health – are available to aid in the delivery of preventive advice.

It is essential that information and guidance regarding infant feeding is encompassed within the preventive messages, as such advice is imperative for the children at the heart of this campaign.

Addition of sugar to bottles, and bottle use at night are examples of a number of factors that have been associated with caries in young children. There is also emerging evidence to suggest that on-demand breastfeeding after 12 months is associated with caries, especially when occurring with consumption of foods and drinks containing free sugars.

Practitioners may feel underprepared to discuss such advice, and this has been highlighted in a recent study carried out at the University of Liverpool, which found that students were aware of, but did not always feel prepared to provide, breastfeeding and weaning advice to a parent.

Resources such as the BSPD position statement on infant feeding are readily available to support in the delivery of these messages.

Every little helps

If every NHS contract holder saw just four more under two year olds per year, we could work together to reduce the number of children experiencing preventable tooth extractions.

Do not be deterred if you are unable to carry out a full exam at the first visit; compliance will likely improve as the child habituates to the dental environment.

Delivery of preventive advice and interventions is the primary goal of the early dental visits.

The engagement of students and young dentists with DCby1 is vital to ensure its long-term success and make Dental Check by One a normality for children of the future.

I encourage you to get involved with the DCby1 campaign in any way that you can, as together, we can improve the oral health of children across the country.

For further information follow @BSPDUK

DCby1 resources are available at www.bspd.co.uk