Improving children’s oral health through prevention

Michael Watson believes it is up to the dental profession to get behind preventive measures and protect children’s oral health

The dental profession should get behind those working to make prevention a reality, Michael Watson says.

Alistair Burt MP, who is the Minister of State at the Department of Health, has set out the steps he is taking to improve dental standards amongst primary school age children, in reply to a parliamentary question.

Since 2013, local authorities have had the responsibility of improving dental health and reducing inequalities among children and young people in their area, and Public Health England has produced a toolkit to help them do this.

They are encouraged to invest in programmes that have demonstrated improvement in children’s dental health, such as community-based fluoride varnish programmes and targeted tooth brushing programmes.

Teeth Team in Hull is one party that is leading the way on initiatives such as this and is now expanding locally and into north Yorkshire, as well as providing help and advice in two other parts of England.

Tackling poor oral health in children

Earlier this month, the Local Government Association (LGA) outlined its public health role in guidance to local councils, entitled Tackling poor oral health in children.

On 15 April, the LGA highlighted the rising number of general anaesthetics carried out on children and the £140 million spent on them, an annual increase over the last four years.

In the light of the scandal of dental extractions for children, the government has recently come under criticism for not having an effective strategy for prevention, especially in recent reports on Channel 4 News and the BBC.

But as the minister said: ‘We are committed to improving the oral health of school children’ and he should at least be given credit for this.

So should some credit be given to those dental teams who are working with local authorities to improve children’s oral health.

Sugar swap campaigns

The minister went on to say that the ‘Sugar Swaps campaign’ was launched last year helping families reduce their sugar consumption through making simple swaps to their diets.

In addition, Public Health England has developed guidance for dental teams on preventing dental disease in young children and advice on prevention of dental disease has also been published by NICE.

It is so easy to make a lot of noise about how UDAs do nothing to deliver prevention, or how the government should act to stop children being sent to hospital for extractions.

Far better, I suggest, would be to get behind those in the profession and outside who are working to make prevention a reality.

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