Last year more than 300 children in Lincolnshire – almost one per day – had to go under general anaesthetic to have decayed teeth removed.
To tackle the issue a new project, Lincolnshire Smiles which is funded by NHS England, is seeing teachers carrying out supervised tooth-brushing sessions with children in reception classes, having first had a visit from their local dental practice.
Twenty independent dental practices have signed up to ‘adopt’ a school in their area so far. The dental team deliver a ‘Better Oral Health’ workshop to the children and teachers and set up racks for toothbrushes and a system for the children to learn how to brush their teeth.
Locally, St Paul’s Community Primary School in Spalding have teamed up with the Tulip Dental Practice in Woolram Wygate in the town, Holbeach Dental Practice has linked with Lutton St Nicholas Primary School and Gedney Church End Primary School and Bourne Dental Practice will work with Abbey Church of England Primary School in the town.
Gina Hargrave, oral health promoter at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS), is training the dental practice staff on how to promote oral health to five year olds.
Gina said: “This is a great way for children and their parents to understand how brushing teeth every day with a fluoride toothpaste helps to protect teeth from tooth decay.
“Prevention is so much better than cure. Working together with parents, schools and local dental practices we can make sure that children in Lincolnshire have something to smile about.”
The project is designed to reduce dental decay in children in the county by getting five year olds to brush their teeth for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste, as well as supporting parents to develop good oral health routines with their children.
Jason Wong, chair of Local Dental Network Lincolnshire, said: “Prevention is a crucial aspect to the NHS Five Year Forward View.
“Tooth decay is a largely preventable condition and the number of children undergoing extraction of their teeth for dental decay under a general anaesthetic is far too high.”
Spalding St Paul’s head teacher Kira Nicholls told the Guardian: “We decided to join the project as we know how important it is to establish early routines and good dental hygiene.
“Many children suffer with poor dental hygiene and are not always encouraged to get into good brushing habits from an early age.
“This is also a challenge due to the high sugar content that is hidden in many of the foods we eat or those that advertisers encourage our children to want. We want to give our pupils the best chance to look after the teeth they grow.”
She added: “I have seen a number of children with dental problems and those who have had to have their milk teeth removed – this isn’t something that we can see children risk with their adult teeth.
“Children’s speech development can be affected by teeth being extracted in the early years and can delay the development of subsequent literacy skills.
“Prevention has to be the key.
“Teaching children to brush their teeth in school will teach them to get into a routine, learn good brushing techniques and enjoy the feeling of fresh breath.
“Hopefully this will then be passed down to the next generation, too.”