DENTAL teams met in Middlesbrough this week with a shared aim – to better children’s oral health in the region.

Hundreds of children, who do not currently visit the dentist, will receive better dental advice and care following the launch of the innovative new government programme, ‘Starting Well’.

Currently, oral health is improving in England but still a quarter (24.7%) of five-year-olds have tooth decay. In 2016, only a third (33%) of children under five had visited a dentist and 26,000 children were admitted to hospital with tooth decay making it the most common reason for a hospital admission in under nines. 

The aim of the programme is to reduce oral health inequalities and improve the oral health of children under the age of five.

Dental teams will go out into the community to reach out to families in high-risks areas of England to teach children about the importance of their dental health and encourage parents to take their children to the dentist more regularly. They will do this through supporting children’s centres events, supporting tooth brushing clubs in early years settings and supporting health fairs and schools parents’ evenings where these are not already provided.

Toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste packs will also be given to children in the local community who are at risk of tooth decay.

Dental practices will then open their doors to the public throughout the year holding open days and holiday events to increase the number of under-fives getting their teeth checked. 

Families will also see more dentists at children’s centres and health fairs, and supporting tooth brushing clubs. These events will ensure that every contact a child makes with a dentist counts and aims to reduce the number of children being admitted with tooth decay.

Health Minister Steve Brine said:

“This government is committed to supporting dentists and improving oral health of children, no matter where they live.  

“The Starting Well programme is an exciting new scheme designed to reach out to families with professional advice and support – encouraging regular visits to the dentist and highlighting the importance of prevention for good oral health.

“It’s only by working closely with the dental profession to promote such outreach schemes, that we can ultimately reduce the number of children suffering the potentially catastrophic effects of tooth decay.”

Pauline Fletcher, Primary Care Commissioning Manager (Dental), NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said:

“The starting well initiative will build on the good work already taking place across Middlesbrough.  Local dental practices and the wider health community will work together to improve access to NHS dental care with the shared goal of improving the oral health of children.”

Kamini Shah, Chair of the Durham, Darlington and Tees Prevention sub-group, said:

“Oral health is improving but too many children still experience pain, discomfort and days off school due to dental decay – particularly in deprived areas.

“Getting the right advice and treatment can be a challenge for many busy families. Targeted programmes like Starting Well can help improve children’s oral health and give them the best start in life.”

Claire Stevens, President of British Society Paediatric Dentistry, said:

“Starting Well is a very important initiative and BSPD welcomes its launch wholeheartedly. It provides the opportunity for dentists to work innovatively in their communities, reaching out to all the professionals who work with young families with consistent messages in relation to prevention.

“We are delighted that Dental Check by One is an important part of the scheme and look forward to seeing the improvements in children’s oral health which must surely ensue. We hope that ultimately the learning points from Starting Well will be rolled out into all areas of the UK.”

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