Get tough on curbing children’s poor dental health, government urged

The government needs to get tough on curbing children’s poor dental health, says the Faculty of Dental Surgery, amid the rise in the number hospital admissions among children for tooth decay.

In a report, published yesterday, the Faculty said that despite being nearly entirely preventable, tooth decay is the most common cause of hospital admissions for 5-9 year olds, with 26,500 admitted to hospital between 2014-15, a rise of almost 1,000 on the previous year’s figure.

This is causing needless distress for parents and children, and is placing unnecessary strain on NHS services, says the report, which calls for prompt government action.

The Department of Health and Public Health England should develop a clear public health strategy where mouth health is part of the debate on how to tackle chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, it says.

“It is unacceptable that one-third of five year olds suffer from tooth decay in England,” said Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons.

“With the number of children being admitted to hospital for tooth extractions rising, we cannot afford to wait. We need to prevent children from reaching the stage where they need to undergo general anaesthetic in a hospital setting in the first place. By encouraging good oral health practice amongst children now we will decrease the likelihood of further problems into their adulthood,” he continued.

“We want to see a clear government strategy that raises awareness of the importance of simple measures, such as reducing sugar consumption, visiting a dentist and [which] drives up standards in oral health nationally,” he said.

The report notes the rise in the number of new cases of mouth cancer in the UK, which have increased by a third over the past decade, with 6,800 cases diagnosed in 2011. Survival rates for this cancer are poor, with around half of those diagnosed dying from their condition within five years. Early diagnosis can make a significant difference to survival, and all dentists and dental care professionals should be trained in how to spot the signs and symptoms, says the Faculty.

The Faculty has pinpointed several ways to improve the state of the nation’s mouth health. Prevention should be at the forefront of policies to improve oral health, it says. And everyone should have equitable access to high quality NHS dental care, no matter where they live.

At the very least there should be an oral health programme to drive improvements in children’s mouth health in England in areas of social deprivation where poor mouth health is most prevalent, it recommends.

And other healthcare professionals should be further encouraged to provide preventive advice to patients, it says.

It calls on the government to run a public health campaign that raises awareness of the impact of sugar on tooth decay, and to extend HPV vaccination to boys in a bid to curb the rising rates of mouth cancer.

If you are concerned about your child's oral health, please contact our Liverpool Dentist who will be happy to discuss ways in which to improve this.

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