Children’s oral health progress in Scotland and Wales ‘markedly outstrips’ England
Preventative support programmes and water fluoridation are among the latest recommendations made by Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH).
Released today, the new ‘State of Child Health’ report outlines what governments and healthcare professionals can do to promote good oral health across the UK.
According to the data, England is lagging behind its neighbours. The report states that oral health progress in Scotland and Wales ‘markedly’ outstrips that of England.
It puts progress down to the introduction of oral health preventative programmes.
In Wales, this refers to the ‘Designed to Smile’ campaign and in Scotland, it points at ‘Childsmile’.
For example, between 2008 and 2018, visually obvious tooth decay among five year olds fell from 42.3% to 28.9% in Scotland.
Between 2008 and 2016, this reduced from 47.6% to 35.4% in Wales.
In comparison, prevalence only fell from 30.9% to 23.3% in England between 2008 and 2017.
Following on from its 2017 ‘State of Child Health’ report, the RCPCH recommends the UK government commissions a review into access to primary, second and emergency dental care.
Additionally, it emphasises the need for preventative programmes to educate children and families on good oral health habits.
It also advises support for local authorities to help introduce fluoridation of public water supplies.
The Community Water Fluoridation (CWF) Network welcomes the recommendations.
Simon Hearnshaw, co-ordinator for the CWF, said: ‘RCPCH is doing sterling work in maintaining pressure for improvements in child health.
‘Sadly, their data shows very little has changed since their first ’State of Child Health’ report in 2017.
‘The oral health of children can improve with a campaign of targeted water fluoridation. We are delighted that the report recognises this.
‘It recommends that the UK Government should provide resource and support for local authorities to implement fluoridation of public water supplies, particularly for areas where there is a high prevalence of tooth decay.’
Dr Hearnshaw added: ‘In addition to improving dental health, water fluoridation helps to reduce health inequalities.’
Additionally, all child healthcare professionals are advised to look out for oral health when assessing a child’s health.
The report also suggests promoting the use of personal oral health records to parents.
For paediatrician and co-author Dr Rakhee Shah, preventative health measures need to be at the forefront.
She said: ‘The UK government needs to prioritise investment in preventative health services.
‘England has seen a huge decline in spending on local services. I see the results of that every day of my working life especially for my most disadvantaged patients.
‘The cuts to services also have an impact on our NHS. People have fewer places to go to get advice, support, and stay well.’
Dr Ronny Cheung, clinical lead for RCPCH and co-author of the report, believes the report exposes ‘troubling signs’ for children across the UK.
‘The harsh reality is that, in terms of health and wellbeing, children born in the UK are often worse off than those born in other comparably wealthy countries,’ he said.
‘This is especially true if the child is from a less well-off background.’