Dental nurse Kelly Woodward, who works at Black Swan Dental, writes about her aim to address the impact of poor oral health in children.
Children and oral health: where do we start?
Tooth decay is the most common childhood infectious disease, affecting 621 million children worldwide whose cavities are untreated.
Dental decay is also one – if not the – most common causes of hospital admission in young children.
Public Health England conducted an oral health survey in 2019-2020. It reported on the prevalence and severity of dental decay found in three-year-old children.
This indicated that in England, 10.7% of three-year-old children surveyed have experience of dental decay. Of these children 7.2% had one or more teeth extracted.
The report also highlights the impact of poor oral health disproportionally affects the most vulnerable and socially disadvantaged individuals and groups in society.
This brings tears to my eyes. I am a mum of three and it makes me sad to think that some children in the UK experience poor oral health, which could be avoided, and which can impact negatively on both their physical and mental health now and later in life.
Fighting oral health inequalities
Thanks to support from Philips, I embarked on a Smile Revolution business course run by Victoria Wilson. The aim is to help dental professionals reflect on what matters to them most and explore how to turn this into a business proposition.
At this early stage I believe I would like my focus to be on helping children. Especially vulnerable children whose parents or carers might have other priorities, which means they overlook children’s oral hygiene.
So far we have discussed children of parents who have alcohol or drug problems, children in foster care or in environments where there clearly is a lack of education. We also discussed boarding schools and childcare scenarios. And so on where carers are in loco perentis.
Looking after children is challenging in the best circumstances. So when parents or carers have difficulties of their own, pacifying their children with sweets and treats is an easy route. We have all been there!
There are also some 55,000 foster families in the UK. They care for almost 80,000 children and young people.
I would imagine that if you are fostering a child, oral health is not necessarily a priority. Carers are often too busy helping them come to terms with trauma, and managing any emotional and mental health issues they are experiencing.
However, I believe there is the potential to make a significant difference. And as a dental professional I should consider a project to continue the fight against oral health inequalities.
Make brushing fun and interactive
I am not yet at the stage when I can map out all the details of my project. I am still working through the plan as part of the course. Victoria Wilson is helping me shape my business plan week by week.
I am also very lucky to work with Dr Ahmad Nounu who truly values every member of his team. He has kindly agreed to support me though the course.
He has also agreed to share an image of a child’s case we have recently worked on at Black Swan Dental. This exemplifies the need for action.
Dr Nounu commented: ‘I really admire what Kelly is working towards and support her wholeheartedly. I can’t wait to see the final project plan she develops.
‘In our practice we do a lot of preventative work to ensure that the risk of tooth decay is minimised amongst children. This includes suggesting ways to make brushing fun.
‘I also recommend dedicated products such as the Sonicare4kids sonic toothbrush to parents and their children. This can make sure that their oral health routines are as engaging as they are effective.
‘As the brush is connected to an app it makes brushing fun and interactive. Kids can time their brushing and eradicate tooth gunk from Sparkly – the character who appears on their screens as they clean.
‘There is that perception that Sonicare brushes are high end and expensive. But actually some in the range are very affordable and a family can share the same power handle and just use their own dedicated brush head.’