Should Schools Be Responsible For Children’s Teeth?

Experts have suggested that children’s teeth might be better looked after if their schools became more pragmatic when it came to teaching the importance of oral health.


It was suggested that schools should be able to teach their children how to prevent tooth decay by using new guidelines provided by the health advisory body NICE.

The guidelines that were issued by NICE recommend nurseries and primary schools adopt tooth brushing activities on the premises with the help of staff members. A report by the BBC last week suggested that there was a significant difference between the oral health of those living in poorer communities in comparison to richer groups and the guidelines highlight the importance of encouraging better oral health in areas where there has been a noticeable trend in emergency dentist appointments etc.

There are many reasons why children suffer from poor oral hygiene, with parental neglect and ignorance being two major factors. Incredibly, one in ten children have rotten teeth before they turn three. Experts say that maintaining neglectful attitudes towards oral health at a younger age is capable of significantly increasing the chances of a lifetime of dental problems.

Mandy Murdoch, a health consultant, told the BBC that there was a common misconception regarding ‘milk’ teeth. Many parents believe that milk teeth don’t require as much attention as adult teeth because they aren’t permanent and will eventually fall out.

“Sever tooth decay at a young age can have negative consequences in later life” said Mrs Murdoch, who highlighted the fact that neglect during the first three years of life is a major factor for the future of oral health.

Surveys were carried out to determine which areas of the country had the highest rate of children with tooth decay. It was found that 34% of children in Leicester had tooth decay, while only 2% had it in other parts of the country.

While there are cultural and environmental factors to consider, NICE believe that advances in dental treatment aren’t helping children who fail to receive this type of care. This is supported by the fact that, according to the Foundation Dean for the Peninsula Dental School Elizabeth Kay, around “25,000 young children are admitted to hospital every year to have teeth taken out”.

There are many different ways of looking at this. Firstly, parents may feel that schools are encroaching on aspects of childcare that they should have to deal with themselves. It’s fair to say that schools and parents haven’t seen eye-to-eye in the past, whether it’s school food or holidays. On the other hand, many teachers might be feeling that their overburdened system now has to take on another responsibility associated with the social and emotional development of pupils.

NICE are keen to see schools contribute to children’s oral hygiene after coming across their findings but is there a better way to tackle the issue of tooth decay in children as young as three? In a country where health care is at an all time high, is there something else behind such a calamitous statistic as this? Perhaps we should reconsider automatically moving the responsibility to schools and start thinking about what we can do as a collective to avoid future neglect of oral hygiene by younger generations.

By Mike James
Freelance Writer
on Behalf of Dental Healthcare Practice

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