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Why Dental Health Matters – The Tooth, and Nothing but the Tooth!

09 January 2019

We find out more about how schools delivering breakfast, such as those we support under the National School Breakfast Programme, can do more to support dental health

Our National School Breakfast Programme is all about ensuring children have the best start to each day and this means ensuring that all the foods we provide are low in sugar to meet school food standards.

Reducing the amount of sugar in a child’s diet is essential for maintaining good health – but it also has benefits for dental health.

Although this isn’t part of the scope of the programme we know our schools like to go above and beyond to assist children so we asked our colleagues at the Royal College of Surgeons to provide some guidance about why dental health is so important.

Here the Faculty of Dental Surgery’s Dean Michael Escudier (pictured) tells us a bit more about this area, and makes suggestions about how schools might help:

The scale of the problem

Tooth decay is a significant health problem affecting large numbers of children, but one that doesn’t always receive the attention it should. Around a quarter of five year olds across England have tooth decay, and shockingly it is also the leading cause of hospital admissions for children aged between five and nine.

Why this matters

Having a decayed tooth often makes it difficult for a child to eat, sleep and concentrate, and treatment can also require them to take time off school. Research has found that in some parts of the country 26% of children who had to go to hospital for a tooth extraction had missed days at school due to dental pain. This is despite the fact that tooth decay is almost entirely preventable by brushing twice a day, regularly visiting the dentist and cutting back on sugar.

How Schools might be able to help

Schools and breakfast clubs can play a vital role in tackling tooth decay. One approach that has already been successful in Scotland and Wales is to introduce supervised tooth brushing sessions in schools to help children develop good oral health habits from an early age.

In England supervised tooth brushing programmes has also been shown to deliver improved oral health outcomes at low cost.

For schools wishing to get involved I would recommend they take a look at the toolkit the government has developed to support those who want to implement such schemes.

For more top tips and information about our breakfast programme click here