As a new report reveals one in five parents in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk have never taken their child to the dentist, a leading dental hygienist calls for urgent action and greater support for families and those with young children.
Michaela ONeill, President of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy (BSDHT) says it is the responsibility of mothers, fathers, teachers, dental professionals and politicians alike, to help resolve the current crisis in children’s dental health but more must be done to help provide direct assistance to parents.
The new figures, which have been released by My Dentist, show a total of 19% of parents in East Anglia have never taken their children to the dentist the lowest take-up in the country.
Nationally, more than 700,000 children under eight who have been to the dentist have had at least one filling, costing the NHS an estimated £22 million a year.
Ms ONeill says: “Tooth decay and poor dental health has a significant impact on our overall health and wellbeing, and in children is a substantial indicator for their quality of life when they enter adulthood. Avoiding dental disease such as tooth decay is incredibly important and it’s critical that children are given the best possible opportunity to keep good dental health.
“In addition to daily brushing and a good diet, visiting a dental professional, whether it’s a dentist or dental hygiene and therapist, as often as they recommend, is one of the most important measures parents can take to look after their child’s teeth.”
In June, the BSDHT launched First Smiles, a dedicated day which paired up schools and dental professionals with the goal to make a positive difference and improve the oral health and wellbeing of young school children.
Ms ONeill believes new initiatives in the classroom could be one answer to help solve the alarming child dental health figures, and are excellent opportunities to give children the skills they need to take care of their teeth throughout the rest of their life.
“First Smiles enabled dental hygiene and therapists from across the country to go into schools and teach thousands of young children about the importance of a healthy mouth. We ensured thousands of early years and primary school children received the right information, delivered in an easy-to-understand and enjoyable way, which they could later adopt at home.
“There were lessons on everything from tooth brushing demonstrations to imaginative activities and information around nutrition and diet. Visits such as these can have a profoundly positive effect on the attitudes of children towards dental professionals and their own oral health.
“Additionally, children were also given toothbrushes and toothpaste along with dental and motivational packs to take home and share with their families. It is these home resources that could then help provide information to parents too.”
Tooth decay also is the leading cause of hospital admissions among British children and has resulted in more than 46,000 children being admitted to hospital every year to have their teeth removed.
This research supports a recent 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 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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