The government has launched a new consultation on proposals to help people liver healthier, happier and longer lives.
Titled ‘Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s’, proposals include ways to improve the population’s oral health.
It suggests rolling out a school toothbrushing scheme in more pre-school and primary school settings across England.
‘Evidence suggests that these programmes have the ability to reduce tooth decay, mitigate inequalities and establish lifelong behaviour to improve oral health,’ the consultation says.
‘Half of all local authorities already have a version of the scheme in place.
‘But they are not always focused on the children that would benefit the most.
‘Next year, we’ll consult on proposals that will allow us to reach the most deprived three to five-year-olds in all areas of the country.
‘The aim would be to reach 30% by 2022.’
Water fluoridation is also mentioned in the consultation as a way of improving the nation’s oral health.
Proposals include removing funding barriers to encourage local areas to introduce fluoride into drinking water.
NHS England said it will actively seek partnerships with local authorities, and councils will be rewarded for their fluoridation efforts.
‘Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance present in most water supplies, though typically at levels too low to improve dental health,’ the consultation continues.
‘It has a protective effect on teeth that lessens the impact of diets high in sugar and poor oral hygiene.
‘Six million people in England (one in 10 of us) already drink fluoridated water because of where they live.
‘A further 400,000 live in areas where fluoride levels in water are already naturally elevated due to the surrounding geology.
‘There’s evidence that these areas have lower levels of dental disease than similar areas without fluoridation.
‘For five-year-olds living in the most deprived areas, the odds of tooth decay are reduced by a third.
‘Water fluoridation schemes such as this have been used for over 70 years internationally, and in England for over 55 years.
‘In its 2018 report, PHE concluded, that “water fluoridation is an effective and safe public health measure to reduce the frequency and severity of dental decay, and narrow differences in dental health between more and less deprived children and young people”.’
The British Dental Association (BDA) has expressed its dismay at the eleventh-hour publication of the Prevention Green paper.
The BDA has described the publication as a ‘fire sale’, and challenged the incoming government not to turn its back on evidence-based policy making.
‘A green paper setting out big ideas to finally put prevention into practice now looks more like a fire sale,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.
‘The tragedy is this document contains numerous tried-and-tested policies, which could save children from pain and our NHS millions in treatment costs.
‘In the rush to avoid the charge of “nanny statism” the first casualty cannot be evidence-based policymaking.
‘Health professionals will look to the next government to show leadership, and will not let this process be swept under the carpet.’