Hundreds of children under-five across Rochdale are set to be saved from the pain and misery of tooth decay after the borough was selected to take part in a new £1.5 million programme to promote a healthier lifestyle

The ‘Healthy Heroes’ programme was created to tackle childhood obesity and tooth decay across the borough of Rochdale.

Rochdale has been chosen as one of four areas of Greater Manchester to benefit from the programme after the city-region was identified by NHS and Public Health England as one of the country’s ‘top 10’ national priority areas for improving children’s oral health.

Nearly half of all five-year-olds in Rochdale (47%) start school with tooth decay, well above the averages for both Greater Manchester and England as a whole (25%).

There are currently over 200 hospital admissions a year for tooth extractions among Rochdale’s under-10s – making it the most common reason for them to be admitted to hospital.

As well as causing pain, sleepless nights and days of missed school and work for children and their families, each extraction costs the NHS around £1,000.

This adds up to a total bill of £20 million every year for treating preventable tooth decay in children across Greater Manchester.

Tackling the impact of high sugar diets

In response, the new Greater Manchester programme aims to reach 90% of under-5s in Rochdale, Bolton, Oldham and Salford.

Its measures to tackle the widespread impacts of high sugar diets and make regular tooth brushing the norm include:

  • introducing supervised tooth brushing every day in schools and nurseries for children aged two to five
  • training a network of dedicated ‘dental champions’, supported by expert external staff, to lead the way in improving dental care in Early Years settings
  • distributing toothbrush/paste packs through health visitor reviews,
  • encouraging families to make dentist visits in the first year of each child’s life, and
  • improving access to quality dental services for those aged under 5.

Andrea Fallon, director of public health at Rochdale Borough Council, said: ‘Making sure our children’s teeth and gums are healthy is more important than people might think.

‘It’s not just about how it looks, dental decay can seriously affect how children feel about themselves, and how they speak, eat and socialise.

‘Unhealthy teeth in childhood – including baby teeth – can lead to a lifetime of misery, so prevention is absolutely essential.’

Sarah Price, executive lead for population health and commissioning at the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said:  ‘Tooth decay is causing pain, sleepless nights and missed days of school for hundreds of children across Rochdale.

‘Across Greater Manchester, this is adding to the daily challenges faced by many of our least well-off families and putting additional pressures on the NHS.

‘Our new £1.5 million oral health programme will tackle these impacts and play a vital role in our ambition of giving all of our children the best start in life’.

Schools in the area have been urged to support healthy initiatives and can contact the Healthy Heroes at [email protected]