SCHOOLS across the country last week [19 JUNE] took part in the first ever First Smiles initiative with the goal to make a positive difference and improve the oral health and wellbeing of young school children across the United Kingdom through education.
The brand new health initiative created by the British Society of Dental Hygiene & Therapy saw dental experts enter schools and nurseries across the UK to deliver fun and accessible lessons to children aged between three and 11 regarding the importance of good dental health and the necessary habits for a healthy smile for life.
The dental professionals, all BSDHT members, engaged with more than 2,500 children who took part in activities and games offering an excellent opportunity to give them the skills they need to take care of their teeth throughout the rest of their life.
President of the BSDHT Michaela ONeill believes the initiative has had a real positive effect on children through teaching good habits and routines at an early age, meaning children are more likely to continue them into adulthood.
Ms ONeill stated: “With First Smiles we are passionate about bringing the message of good oral health and hygiene into the classroom. We have ensured early years and primary school children everywhere can receive the right information, delivered in an easy-to-understand and enjoyable way, which they can later adopt at home.
“We have managed to reach a lot of children with the vital message of how to maintain a healthy mouth at a young age, we are not only creating good health for these children now, but the benefits will most likely continue far into the future.
“The initiative has also allowed the forging of strong alliances between dental practices and schools through which, hopefully, there is more time dedicated to teaching the children the importance of good oral health and hygiene within the schools themselves.”
The initiative was launched on the back of the latest findings from the Child’s Dental Health Survey, which revealed nearly a third (31 per cent) of five-year-olds and nearly a half (46 per cent) of eight-year-olds have visible signs of dental decay.1
The study also revealed that a staggering amount of primary school children have already developed tooth decay, with estimates putting the number at nearly a quarter of a million, with nearly one in three children actually starting school with visible signs of tooth decay.
“It’s an alarming when you think about the number of children being affected by tooth decay at such a young age. It is an entirely preventable disease which we all need to do more to address in order to give all children the best starts in life,” added Ms ONeill.
“Within First smiles we have seen lessons on everything, from tooth brushing demonstrations to imaginative activities around nutrition and diet. Children have also been given toothbrushes and toothpaste along with dental packs to take home and share with their families. Visits such as these can have a profoundly positive effect on the attitudes of children towards dental professionals and their own oral health.
“This has been a good start but we are hoping to take the initiative much further and reach many more young children with our basic message that a simple brushing technique twice a day for two minutes with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, as well as eating a balanced diet and reducing the number of sugary drinks and snacks should be taught from a very early age, equipping children with the skills and knowledge to keep their teeth healthy for life.”
The basic messages of good oral hygiene are simple, but so many children, especially those in more deprived areas of the UK, don’t even get these. It is a challenge which the BSDHT is looking forward to facing head on and providing young children then best opportunity to have a healthy smile for life.
The British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is a nationally recognised body that represents over 4,000 Dental Hygienists and Dental Therapists across the UK and beyond.
BSDHT maintain an on-going dialogue with the General Dental Council (GDC), the Departments of Health and all of the main groups representing dental care professionals, and attends meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dentistry, bringing dental hygiene and therapy to the attention of government ministers and MP’s.
Visit www.bsdht.org.uk for more information.
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