Kids’ oral health scheme a hit with MPs

An MP is urging health authorities throughout the UK to use an innovative oral health model that has cleaned up the mouths of hundreds of people living in a hugely deprived area of the UK.
Manchester Smiles dental health campaign has been a massive success in improving the oral health of those living in the poorer areas of the city in the north west of England.
Sir Paul Beresford MP, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, invited leading fellow parliamentarians and oral health experts to a summer reception at Westminster on Tuesday to hear dental public health specialist, Dr Colette Bridgman, talk about the scheme that works in conjunction with the city’s NHS primary care trust.
He urged fellow MPs attending the event to take home her message and share it with their health authorities in order to improve the oral health across the UK.
Lord Howe, parliamentary under-secretary of state for health, was keynote speaker at a reception that took place in the same week the government announced it would be making major amendments to its controversial Health and Social Care Bill.
These changes are the reaction to an independent report by the Future Forum recommending that the government rein in its ‘ambitious’ reforms.
With the government now set to focus on integrated and joined-up care, the speech made by Lord Howe on Tuesday reflected this.
Welcoming Dr Bridgman, the minister with lead responsibility for dentistry told: ‘Access to the NHS dental services is improving, but this on its own will not meet the challenge of reducing inequalities. We need to develop a multi-professional approach to reducing the prevalence of dental decay in those parts of the community where it most commonly occurs.
‘If we only engage the dental community we will not achieve this aim. It has to be a broad cross-sector approach involving education, social care and society in general, including the commercial world.’
Among the initiatives championed by Manchester Smiles are fluoride varnishing for children, Meet the Dentist sessions and a ‘Buddy’ scheme which pairs up dental practices with local schools.
Dr Bridgman emphasised the multi-disciplinary approach of Manchester Smiles, explaining that with more than half the children in inner Manchester affected by poor oral health by the time they reach school age, their dental health – which ‘mirrors the deprivation’ –  can lead to pain, sleepless nights and disfiguring tooth loss.
Manchester Smiles, she explained, reverses this trend and was being addressed across all sectors.
Under the scheme, 6,000 pupils at 80 primary schools have supervised brushing sessions twice daily and dental practices are ‘buddied’ with schools.
Under a different scheme, 200,000 families in Manchester have received free toothpaste and toothbrushes since 1999, a plan that Dr Bridgman believes should be extended nationally.
Lord Howe also announced there is to be a patient-focused version of the Department of Health’s Delivering Better Oral Health: An evidence-based toolkit for prevention and hailed its publication as a ‘useful step forward’.

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