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Think about the children!

24 February 2015

Think about the children!

This week the spotlight turns to children’s oral health. Today (Feb 24) the Government’s Health Select Committee will have a one-off debate regarding the state of children’s teeth and measures to improve inequalities throughout England.

Submissions of evidence have been received from all sectors within the profession, and witnesses to be questioned by the HSC include England CDO Barry Cockcroft ; Deputy Director for the Legislation and Policy Unit at NHS England Peter Howitt; Public Health England’s Director of Dental Public Health Sandra White; Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons; and Stephen Fayle, Consultant and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer in Paediatric Dentistry at Leeds Dental Institute.

The British Orthodontic Society (BOS) has released their recommendations which they put forward for the HSC. Alison Murray, Chair of BOS, commented: “Orthodontic treatment delivers important oral health improvements, whether it’s having teeth which are easier to clean or lower plaque scores. Meanwhile, individuals with only minor dental problems or no problems at all have a better Oral Health-related Quality of Life, particularly in relation to emotional and social well-being allowing them to function well in society.”

The BOS made the following recommendations in their report:

  • Paediatric restorative and orthodontic specialist services should be accessible to children and young people in all parts of the country to help reduce inequalities.
  • The Department of Health should carry out a review of orthodontic waiting lists and provide funding for treatment in areas where lists are unacceptably long.
  • More funding should be directed to areas of deprivation not only to deal with dental decay in young children, but to ensure that their dental development is not blighted by early extractions.

Also making representation to the HSC was the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD), who has urged the HSC ‘to take measures to reduce the ‘alarming proportion’ of children in England suffering from disproportionately high levels of tooth decay’. 

The BSPD’s submission was compiled by Helen Rodd, Professor and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry who stated: “It is a sad reflection on society that the greatest levels of disease are seen in those from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families.”

The report concludes with recommendations for the following to be introduced:

  • National commissioning of children’s dental services as soon as possible.
  • Preventive interventions for all children with an intensified regimen for pre-school aged children living in areas of greatest deprivation.
  • Government-led policy to educate and legislate against sugar consumption
  • Access for all children to the dental care professionals who are best able to meet their needs as well as equitable access to high quality general anaesthetic and sedation services and emergency services when needed.

Professor Rodd added: “BSPD welcomes the hearing by the Health Select Committee and the opportunity to highlight that the oral health of some children in England is of grave concern.  We need policy-makers on side to tackle the alarming proportion of children suffering from dental decay. This entirely preventable disease can lead to life-long negative impacts, affecting health and well-being, and places a wider burden on families and the health service.”

The Health Select Committee’s session looking at child oral health is scheduled for the afternoon of Feb 24.  Click here to view

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