Good dental health should be encouraged from a young age to prevent tooth decay. Pic: Tiffany Terry (Flickr)
by Benedetta Ricci
Parents are being urged to take their children to the dentist, after it was revealed that Tower Hamlets is one of the worst places for dental health in the country.
Alongside nine other boroughs in London (including Hackney), the rates show that more than 50 per cent of children have not seen a dentist in the last year.
A spokesperson for Professor Nigel Hunt, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said to ELL: “It is utterly unacceptable that more than a third of children aged 5 years old in Tower Hamlets suffer from tooth decay and that for every 100,000 children aged 0-10 in the borough, 916 had teeth extracted because of tooth decay.
“It is hardly surprising, though, given over 60% of children in the borough did not see a dentist in 2016. Tower Hamlets is the third worst borough in London for tooth decay and well above the national average of 24.7%.”
Although it is preventable, tooth decay is one of the most common oral diseases affecting children and young people. Children living in deprived communities– particularly those with disabilities– have poorer oral health than those living in more affluent communities. This can affect a child’s ability to sleep, eat and even speak in more extreme cases.
Professor Hunt says tooth decay can be prevented by regularly brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste, reducing sugar consumption and ensuring routine dental visits. He said: “When children visit the dentist regularly, problems are picked up more quickly and the need for more aggressive treatment, such as tooth extraction in hospital, can be avoided.
“Many parents don’t realise that they should be taking children to the dentist by age one and then regularly thereafter. There is really no excuse not to as NHS dentistry for under-18s is free.”
To tackle the issue, Tower Hamlets Council is implementing multiple programmes, such as Smiling Start, Brushing for Life, School Fluoride Varnish, Healthy Teeth in Schools and Happy Smiles, which all aim to educate parents and children about the importance of dental care.
The council is also promoting oral health in all parts of the community, with support and training for care leavers, carers and service providers for elderly people, homeless people, those in sheltered housing and those with learning disabilities.
In 2014, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published guidance on oral health.
Shalu Kanal, who works with NICE, said to ELL: “The guidance provides advice to local authorities to improve their whole community’s health through better advice and support in oral hygiene, encouraging people to visit the dentist regularly, and through eating and drinking more healthily.”
Hunt stressed the importance of having children develop good oral hygiene habits from an early age. He told ELL: “Early years practitioners, such as health visitors and community midwives have an important role to play and oral health should be part of their training and professional development.” Anyone living, studying or working in Tower Hamlets can access good-quality NHS dental services. To find your nearest dentist please call the health hotline on 020 7364 5016 or search online at www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Dentists/LocationSearch/3.