BSDHT Responds to Public Health England special school oral health report

In light of the review published yesterday [24th September 2015] by Public Health England (PHE), which highlighted that children in special schools have more severe tooth decay compared to children in mainstream schools, the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) is calling for major changes to be made as to how some dental professionals are utilised.

The BSDHT is urging authorities to increase the role of dental hygienists, or those dually qualified in dental hygiene and therapy, in order to provide more important preventative dental treatments and help lower the risk of traumatic oral health problems in vulnerable children.

The BSDHT believes changes need to include, but are not limited to, hygienists and the dually qualified hygienists and therapists being able to fully utilise direct access by being given the ability to open a course of treatment (COT’s) under the NHS. This will ensure that more children are able to be triaged and treated quickly and effectively.

Michaela ONeill, President of the BSDHT commented on the findings of the report: “This report highlights some very worrying trends in children with SEND. The fact that more than one in five (22%) children in special support schools has tooth decay is particularly shocking, especially when you consider that every single one of these cases is entirely preventable.

“We are ready and willing to provide more support to authorities and schools alike. Giving dental hygienists and the dually qualified in hygiene and therapy more opportunity to provide preventative treatments is vitally important in stopping the vast majority of these cases.

“Currently all COT’s need to be opened by a dentist, which has implications on time spent and costs involved. Allowing hygienists and the dually qualified to do this for preventative treatments in particular, will make a significant difference to the number of children treated.

“Treating children with SEND at a preventative stage is much easier than further down the line when they have developed severe problems. It involves less invasive procedures, less time, lower costs and most importantly, children are not forced to suffer the distress and pain which can come with severe dental health problems.”

The first national survey1 of oral health in special schools for children with severe special education needs and disabilities (SEND) highlighted that although children with SEND had slightly lower instances of tooth decay, they were more likely to have tooth extractions as the decay was more acute.

“Authorities need to give hygienists and the dually qualified the opportunity to play an active role within special schools to help support children, teachers and other staff, as well as parents, and initiate and maintain effective dental health routines.

“We have already shown this works through our First Smiles campaign which saw dental experts enter schools and nurseries across the UK to deliver fun and accessible lessons to more than 2,500 children. The dental professionals, all BSDHT members, managed to positively influence meaningful and effective dental health behaviour.”

Editors Notes



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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.

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