The news released from Public Health England today, that almost 9 out of 10 hospital tooth extractions among children aged 0 to 5 are due to preventable tooth decay, serves as a useful reminder to the health visiting profession. Whilst it is encouraging that oral health in the under 5s is improving overall, we still have significant work to do in deprived areas to tackle oral health inequalities. The number of extractions in 0-5 year group due to tooth decay remains a shocking statistic and should further mobilise the profession, especially where 9 out of 10 extractions were considered preventable.
Health visitors nationally have key opportunities through the mandated contacts of the Healthy Child Programme to deliver sugar reduction and toothbrushing messages to all families, as well as seeking to encourage and support parents to engage with routine dental care. Health visiting teams are also well positioned to promote apps such as the Change4Life Food Scanner at these appointments.
Through their ongoing work at partnership plus level of the service, health visitors have the prospect of identifying and intervening where children are known to be more at risk of tooth decay e.g children with long-term medical conditions are at high risk of dental health issues, or additionally those families we work closely with over a prolonged period with significant wider health and social issues.
iHV is committed to improving children’s oral health and remains a keen member of the Children’s Oral Health Improvement Programme Board (COHIPB). We have published some summaries of resources for professionals, collated with the support of the Office of the Chief Dental Officer NHS England in the autumn of 2018. We aim to promote these again to our members and the workforce again to support action on oral health by health visitors.