Tooth decay and gum disease are the two most common, largely preventable dental problems. At risk are those who are among the most vulnerable in our society and who are dependent on others to care for them, such as young children and frail older people who need help to stay independent.
In new and wide-ranging guidance, NICE has said that carers, parents and children in many areas need support to stop tooth decay and diseases linked to poor oral hygiene.
Severe tooth decay has been reported in children as young as 3. Tooth decay can have a lifelong effect on health as well as a person’s self-esteem, their ability to eat and socialise normally.
NICE has provided advice to local authorities to improve their whole community’s health through better advice and support in oral hygiene, by encouraging people to visit the dentist regularly, and through eating and drinking more healthily.
NICE suggests local authorities consider supervised tooth-brushing and fluoride varnishing programmes in nurseries and primary schools in areas where children are at high risk of poor oral health.
Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in England, yet it is largely preventable. Whilst children’s oral health has improved over the past 40 years, one in eight (12%) three-year-olds have suffered from the disease which can be very painful and even result in a child having teeth removed under general anaesthetic.
Professor Mike Kelly said: “Children, as young as 3, 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. They eat too much sugar and don’t clean their teeth with fluoride toothpaste. As a society we should help parents and carers give their children the best start in life and act now to stop the rot before it starts.”
The guideline recommends that all schools encourage good oral health – by working with parents and carers, and by ensuring that people have access to the right information about oral health and healthy food and drinking water.
Professor 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.”