22 October 2014

Guidelines released today by England's health watchdog could help schools to improve oral health.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has released new guidelines encouraging schools and nurseries to help children brush their teeth, particularly in disadvantaged areas of England.

Under the proposals, schools will be urged to supervise children age three to 11 brushing their teeth for two minutes twice a day. Pupils will also be given toothpaste and a toothbrush to take home.

Children brushing their teeth Tooth decay and gum disease are the two of the most common and entirely preventable dental problems. Recently released statistics have identified that one in eight three year-olds and one in four five year-olds suffer from visible tooth decay, while more than 25,000 children aged five to nine have been admitted to hospital due to tooth decay.

Professor Elizabeth Kay, Foundation Dean for the Peninsula Dental School at Plymouth University and one of the authors of the guidelines, hopes they go some way to addressing oral health inequalities.

Professor Kay said: "It is important to encourage local authorities to take a greater role in helping to prevent tooth decay. There is a clear lack of understanding of just how serious dental disease is. Tooth decay and gum disease are entirely preventable, and yet we are seeing figures such as 25,000 little children having body parts removed because of disease we know how to prevent.

"It would be great if every school and nursery across the country took the guidelines on board and delivered them. They are in no way an excuse for parents to stop supervising their child's oral health routine at home. It is hoped these guidelines will help to reverse the level of tooth decay in children and safeguard the oral health of future generations."

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, added: "Tooth decay is entirely preventable through nothing more than a few very basic oral health messages. The British Dental Health Foundation encourages everybody to brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cut down on how often they have sugary foods and drinks and visit the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.

"Implementing water fluoridation to help tackle these inequalities, particularly in the more deprived areas of the country, will also go a long way to preventing tooth decay. The addition of fluoride in toothpaste alone has been responsible for reducing decay by up to 50 per cent. Levels of dental decay have also fallen in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in the UK, yet only 12 per cent of the population have fluoridated water.

"Together with these guidelines, fluoridation could make a significant difference to the oral health of children, and adults, across the country."

The full guidelines can be accessed here: Oral health: approaches for local authorities and their partners to improve the oral health of their communities