Schools should help children learn how to brush their teeth

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Schools and nurseries should run tooth brushing schemes to help standardise the oral health of younger children, according to the advisory body, NICE.

In England, standards of oral health vary widely, particularly among younger children. This was highlighted in a recent Public Health England survey which found that in areas such as Leicester, more than a third of children showed signs of tooth decay, compared with just 2 per cent in other parts of the country.

NICE's new guidelines for England say nurseries and schools should consider introducing supervised tooth-brushing and fluoride varnishing programmes, because as many as half of five-year-olds have decayed, missing or filled teeth in some parts of the country.

The guidance is aimed at local authorities, health and wellbeing boards, commissioners, directors of health, and frontline practitioners working generally in health, social care and education.

It states that local authorities should consider supervised tooth-brushing and fluoride varnishing schemes for areas where children are at high risk of poor oral health.

Groups that are responsible for an oral health needs assessment and strategy should developing an oral health strategy based on a needs assessment.

Public service environments should promote oral health, and information and advice on oral health should be included in all local health and wellbeing policies.

In addition, oral health should be promoted in the workplace, and local authorities and other commissioners should ensure frontline health and social care staff should be given training in the promotion of oral health.

Elizabeth Kay, Foundation Dean for the Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth, said: “Around 25, 000 young children every year are admitted to hospital to have teeth taken out. Given that we know how to prevent dental disease this really should not be happening.

“If there were a preventable medical condition which caused thousands of young children (mostly around 5 years old) to end up in hospital to have body parts removed there would be an outcry.

“These guidelines offer local authorities an opportunity and evidence as to how they can stop the most vulnerable children and adults in their areas from suffering from the pain, trauma and lifetime negative effects of tooth decay.”

Prof Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE, said: "Children, as young as three, are being condemned to a life with rotten teeth, gum disease and poor health going into adulthood.

"Many children have poor diets and poor mouth hygiene because there is misunderstanding about the importance of looking after children's early milk teeth and gums."

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