iHV joins a group of 8 leading health organisations in publishing and sharing a consensus statement calling for the Government to urgently act to reverse increasing inequality in children’s oral health.

A survey of oral health in five-year-old children, produced as part of the National Dental Epidemiology Programme and published last week, found that over 35% of children in areas of deprivation experienced dentinal decay in 2022 in comparison to only 13.5% in more affluent areas.

With tooth decay the leading cause of hospital admissions for five-to-nine-year-olds, there is a significant, and preventable, knock-on cost to the NHS.

Families do need to be equipped with the knowledge to encourage and oversee good hygiene practice amongst children. However, this report’s worrying findings are not a result of behaviour, poor choices or a lack of education. Rather, they are a result of a wider system failure to take forward proven, cost-effective public health measures that prevent tooth decay and improve everyone’s health and wellbeing.

We therefore urge the Government to:

  • Impose further restrictions on the marketing and sale of sugary food and drinks.
  • Support policy across all departments to improve access to affordable, healthy food.
  • Increase the number of water fluoridation schemes, which are the single most effective public health measure for reducing tooth decay rates.
  • Improve access to fluoride varnish programmes.
  • Facilitate timely access to free child dental services for preventative advice and early diagnosis.
  • Ensure that the early years workforce are educated about the importance of child oral


We are delighted to share the following updated Parent Tips and Good Practice Points resources:

Parent Tip – Looking after your children’s teeth

Dental decay is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people in the UK, yet it is largely preventable. This parent tip provides a summary of the simple steps that you and your family can take every day to protect and improve your child’s dental health.


Good Practice Point – An introduction to food allergies

Health visitors are likely to see many different manifestations of allergy such as eczema, asthma, hay fever and gastrointestinal disturbances, and should be aware of these conditions to question whether allergy could be a cause of the symptoms.

These Good Practice Points, authored by Sue Clarke BSc (Hons) RGN, DN, SPPH, RHV, FiHV, Lecturer in Allergy, Retired HV, and Jackie Gaventa BA (Hons) RGN, SCPHN, Health Visitor, Practice Teacher, FiHV, set out what health visitors need to know about food allergies and when the symptoms can be managed in primary care or when referral to a specialist is needed.

Please note that this GPP is available to iHV members only.

iHV welcomes PHE/COHIPB paper on breastfeeding and dental decay, and the statement below from Dr Jenny Godson MBE, Chair of the Child Oral Health Improvement Programme Board.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:

“Health visitors will be very pleased to have this clarity.”

There have been a number of recent queries received by Public Health England (PHE) and the Child Oral Health Improvement Programme Board (COHIPB) with regard to policy and guidance on breastfeeding and dental decay.

The briefing paper clarifies current evidence and guidance.

Key points from the briefing are:

  • Dental teams should continue to support and encourage mothers to breast feed
  • Not being breastfed is associated with an increased risk of infectious morbidity (for example, gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, middle ear infections)
  • Breastfeeding up to 12 months of age is associated with a decreased risk of tooth decay
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for around the first 6 months of life. Complementary foods should be introduced from around 6 months of age alongside continued breastfeeding.
  • The prevalence of breastfeeding in UK is low with 34% of mothers still breastfeeding their child at 6 months with only 1% exclusively breastfeeding
  • Further advice for dental teams can be found in Health Matters: Child Dental Health and Delivering Better Oral Health (2014)

With regard to the recent British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) position statement on infant feeding, it supports breastfeeding and seeks to provide individual level preventive advice to all. With regard to the small proportion of parents who continue to breastfeed after 1 year, the statement advises that with diversification of the infant diet to include foods and drinks other than breast milk or infant formula, the risk of dental decay changes depending upon the free sugar content of the complementary foods and drinks, and how frequently such foods are consumed and access to fluoride through the commencement of tooth brushing with fluoride toothpaste. The BSPD statement recognises these confounding issues, and advises careful consideration of all factors and individual patient counselling.

There is evidence of benefits  to child health including oral health from breastfeeding however levels of exclusive breastfeeding at 6-months remain very low (1%). PHE and BSPD agree that dental teams have a key role to play in supporting and encouraging mothers to breastfeed.