Public Health England figures suggest that dentists are removing around 1,000 teeth per month from children under the age of 6, despite the fact that almost all cases of decay are preventable. With dental issues costing the NHS millions of pounds, and children missing 60,000 school days every year as a result of decay, it has been suggested that supervised brushing in schools could help to stem the rising tide of decay.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is launching a consultation on a number of measures designed to reduce rates of decay, including supervised brushing schemes in schools. Health experts are worried that a large proportion of children aren’t brushing their teeth on a daily basis, and introducing brushing programmes could help to ensure that young children brush at least once a day.
Poor oral hygiene is a significant factor in high rates of decay, but public dental health experts are also eager to improve eating habits, reduce sugar consumption and encourage parents to take children to the dentist every 6 months.
The news of brushing schemes has been welcomed by dentists, including the chair of the British Dental Association’s principal executive committee, Mick Armstrong, but it has been criticised by teaching unions. Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, questioned whether it was the duty of teachers to ensure that their pupils brushed their teeth.
Senior lecturer in dental public health at the University of Birmingham, Dr John Morris, said that the impact of poor dental health in childhood shouldn’t be underestimated. Dental troubles contribute to pain and a higher risk of infection, but they can also affect self-confidence and socialisation.
Tooth extraction is currently the most common reason children are admitted to hospital in the UK.