‘Many have never visited a dentist before’ – hundreds of school children receive free oral health checks
‘Work that should last a lifetime’ – this morning Dental Wellness Trust visited a primary school suffering from poor oral health to provided free oral health screenings.
The charity provided free oral health screening for 320 children at Waulud Primary School and Nursery in Luton today.
Its campaign, Saving Kid’s Teeth, involves visiting schools for their Livesmart Dental Care program. This involves checking the children’s teeth and providing fluoride paste to protect their teeth from decay if necessary.
Many of the children had never visited a dentist before.
Louise Bartlett, a teacher at the Luton school, said: ‘It’s an amazing opportunity because the dental hygiene in our school is really poor.
‘We have a lot of children having absences because they have to have teeth taken out or because they’ve got so much pain in their teeth.’
Oral health crisis
Dr Linda Greenwall is the founder of Dental Wellness Trust. She stated: ‘Every year, 48,000 children go into hospital to have their rotten teeth removed in England. That’s a big crisis and they have to have a general anaesthetic to have their teeth removed because they’re in so much pain.
Natalie Gabrawi is one of over 15 volunteers who helped carry out the oral health screenings. She commented: ‘It feels like a privilege to help these kids. I never had this growing up. So the fact that they’re doing this now I think is really, really great.
‘The best time to make an impact on people’s lives is when they’re kids because they’re very impressionable. I feel like a lot of these kids don’t know how to look after their teeth properly, or they just never been aware of it.’
Dental student Sofia Lambert travelled an hour with her sister, also a dental student, to volunteer for the charity. She stated: ‘I just hope that now that they know about their teeth, they can go to the dentist more, that they’re more aware of everything and then they can just keep better oral hygiene.
‘We’re showing them about flossing, for example, which a lot of them have never seen before.’
Signs of improvement
Gill Fujino is the family worker for the primary school. She got involved with the charity six years ago. ‘I met Linda, she came and did some training and we started the supervised toothbrushing scheme in the nursery, and then we’ve followed that through,’ she said.
‘Every year group does it now. It’s fantastic.’
The charity’s toothbrushing scheme has 20,000 school children in England taking part. Supplied by Colgate, the children are given toothpaste and a toothbrush each term. Linda stated: ‘We know that the best way is to educate a child on how to brush their teeth and to do it as a daily habit, morning and evening.
‘All the children enrolled in our programme brush everyday at school.’
Gill added: ‘We’ve got about 440 children in this school and we’ve had 320 consent forms back, which is massive.’
Due to the school’s continued focus on the importance of teeth brushing, Linda states that it is seeing an improvement in the children’s oral health.
‘Today we are seeing less decay than in other schools because the children participate in the teeth brushing programme every day.’
Sarah Owen MP
Sarah Owen, MP for Luton North, attended the school this morning. She stated: ‘It’s fantastic to be here today and to see the children actually really excited about coming to see and get their teeth checked, but also to know that there’s really important work going on here that should last a lifetime.’
When asked what changes need to be made to help the oral health crisis children are facing, Sarah said: ‘We’ve got to make sure that no one falls through the cracks. I think that’s about information, it’s about access to dentists, and dentists being supported to do the work that they need to do.
‘I know that there’s a dental shortage, particularly NHS dentists, and I think the government really need to look at that in the same way that they look at the GP shortage crisis.’
How do we solve the crisis?
Sarah continued: ‘Fantastic days like this where you see Dental Wellness Trust seeing hundreds of children in one day is brilliant.
‘But this needs to be replicated many, many times over in order to, not just catch up from the backlog of the last two years, but also to really halt the decline in what we’re seeing in good oral health of a lot of children.’
Likewise, Linda hopes more schools will take part in the campaign. She stated: ‘It should be a nationwide. Every school should have a tooth brushing programme to help their children improve their oral health and general health.
‘We know that having a healthy mouth that actually improves the child’s wellbeing and general health as well’.
‘A great job’
The teachers and dental volunteers alike were pleased with the success of the Livesmart Dental Care program today.
Volunteer Natalie stated: ‘They’re doing such a great job here. It’s something I’ve always wanted to get involved in.’
Family worker Gill added: ‘The dentists are amazing, the staff here are amazing and so are the kids.
‘That’s why it’s working – everyone is totally on the ball and the children are really well behaved’
Linda urges anyone who can to get involved with the charity and program. ‘Please come and volunteer, it makes such a huge difference.’
‘We’re so grateful to the volunteers and to the sponsorship of Henry Schein, Software of Excellence, Mircrominder, Portman Dental Care, Aquafresh, DMG, SDI and GSK.’
To get involved, contact [email protected]
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