Water fluoridation ‘essential’ to improve children’s oral health during pandemic

Water fluoridation and a collaborated healthcare approach is key to tackling child oral health in the face of COVID-19Water fluoridation and a collaborated healthcare approach is key to tackling child oral health in the face of COVID-19.

This is according to newly-published research looking at coronavirus and the impact on child dental services in the UK.

Published in BMJ Paediatrics, it discusses how the disruption of routine care led to the cancellation of elective tooth extraction for dental caries under general anaesthetic (GA). Caries affects around 23% of children under the age of five in England.

Currently, it is unknown when the full resumption of routine GA services for paediatric dentistry will kick in. Currently, clinicians are only seeing small numbers of children with the most severe symptoms.

Promotion and integration

Additionally, the pandemic sparked the suspension of visits from health teams and school nursing services. This also applies to oral health improvement schemes and dental surveys.

As a result, the researchers called for a number of changes and actions in a bid to protect children’s oral health.

They push for the promotion and integration of child oral health in professional practice, such as:

  • Appropriate signposting to local dental services and oral health resources
  • Local initiatives including websites summarising crucial oral health messages
  • The inclusion of oral health within public health policy eg the government’s national obesity strategy.

They add that continuous support for water fluoridation is ‘essential’ to the cause.

‘It is a safe, cost effective, public health intervention with proven reduction in the incidence of caries, as well as specifically reducing socioeconomic status inequalities in dental health,’ they write.

Currently, fluoridated water accounts for 14% of the UK water supply.

Simple health message

The study calls for immediate action as we face potential further waves and prolonged lockdowns.

It adds: ‘In conclusion, we recommend that rather than the current default position of delegating the responsibility to dental professionals alone, that all healthcare workers (paediatricians and general practitioners, nurses, midwives and health visitors), parents, schools and other institutions should work collaboratively to tackle child oral health.

‘The cost to the NHS for preventing tooth decay is minimal compared with the cost of extractions under GA (£36 million per year). Tackling child oral health nationally and indeed globally needs a very simple health message, willingness to act and not simply implied actions.’

You can read the full study here.

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