Westminster City Council has launched a new initiative to improve children’s dental health with a conference featuring representatives from local schools, dental services and relevant community groups. The initiative aims to improve children’s dental health in Westminster, and tackle a situation that sees the area have the 4th highest level of child tooth decay for 5 year olds in London. The aim of bringing together the key groups with influence over children’s oral health builds upon existing practical schemes including promoting fluoride varnishing and providing a free toothbrush and toothpaste to all primary school reception pupils.
The conference heard from Professor Hunt, Dean of the Royal College of Surgeons, who underlined the scale of the challenge nationally and in Westminster. He revealed that in Westminster 59 per cent of children did not see an NHS dentist in 2016 and emphasised that tooth decay was the top cause of admissions to hospital amongst 5 to 9 year olds in 2015-16. He concluded that change was possible as tooth decay is 90 per cent preventable.
There was also local inspiration from Colville Primary School, a ‘healthy school’ gold award winner. Colville described using initiatives like permitting only water and milk to be drunk at school and ensuring that parents include details of their children’s dentist on their admission forms. Their efforts have dramatically cut the number of school days lost to poor dental health.
The meeting marked the start of a campaign that will see the development of an educational video aimed at local families. The coalition of local stakeholders also committed to further work around cutting sugar consumption in children, promoting effective brushing and encouraging regular visits to the dentist.
Cllr Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services and Public Health, said:
“This is an important campaign to tackle a serious challenge for Westminster. We know the misery that poor dental health causes and we know it increases hospitalisation of children. A few easy measures, including visiting a dentist regularly, brushing twice a day and cutting down on sugary drinks can help children keep their teeth healthy. I’m committed to bringing together local schools, businesses and health professionals to ensure every child and parent in Westminster knows and applies these simple steps.”