Tooth decay in children is a real bugbear of mine...I've written about it here a couple of times previously.
It is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in England, yet is largely preventable.
Almost nine out of 10 hospital tooth extractions among children aged 0 to 5 years are due to preventable tooth decay and tooth extraction is still the most common hospital procedure in 6 to 10 year olds, according to Public Health England (PHE) data up to 2019.
Tooth decay can cause problems with eating, sleeping, communication and socialising.
Dental pain caused by decay can be detrimental to performance in school, affecting children’s concentration in lessons and potentially needing time off for dental appointments.
At worst, children with untreated tooth decay may need to have multiple teeth out under general anaesthesia.
Yet, by simply cutting down on sugar, as well as brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste, all this pain and inconvenience - and potential future health issues such as an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes - could be prevented.
It's a fact that, despite all the advice, children are still consuming more than the recommended daily sugar limit.
That's why last week leading dental surgeons called on all schools in England to become sugar-free to tackle high levels of child tooth decay.
In an updated position statement, the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) said it believes 'all schools should be encouraged to become sugar-free' and that supervised tooth brushing schemes should be put in place before 2022 so that more children at risk of decay can benefit.
The statement also calls on the new Government to stand by previous commitments in the Childhood Obesity Plan and Prevention Green Paper.
While important progress has been made since the FDS launched its children’s oral health campaign in 2015, such as the introduction of the soft drinks industry levy, the FDS is pushing the point home that it is vital that policy-makers and the oral health profession remain focused - as there is still much work to be done.
The FDS would like to see a national public health campaign introduced highlighting that all children should see a dentist at least once a year, as recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence, and highlighting that NHS dental care is free for under-18s.
Professor Michael Escudier, Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: “It is incredibly worrying that levels of tooth decay among children in England remain so high - especially when you consider that it is almost entirely preventable through simple steps such as brushing twice a day with appropriate strength fluoride toothpaste, visiting the dentist regularly and reducing sugar consumption.
“The FDS believes that limiting the availability of sugary foods and drinks in schools is essential to reducing the amount of sugar our children consume.
"While the Government has committed to reviewing school food standards, we would like to see them go beyond this to encourage all schools in England to become sugar-free.
"We would also support the publication of nutritional guidelines for packed lunches.
“The scourge of child dental decay cannot be allowed to continue."
Other key recommendations made in the FDS position statement include calling for action to be taken to reduce the sugar content of commercial baby foods.
Key statistics on children’s oral health in England:
• There were 102,663 hospital admissions due to tooth decay among children under the age of 10 between April 2015 and March 2018
• 23.3% of five year old children have visible decay
• 41.4% of under-18s did not visit an NHS dentist during 2018, rising to 77.0% of young children aged between one and two