Campaign to improve children’s poor oral health across West Suffolk

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County councillors have launched a campaign to improve children’s dental health after figures revealed a quarter of children in Mildenhall and nearly a fifth in Bury St Edmunds have tooth decay before starting school.

A Suffolk public health report revealed 18.3 per cent of children in St Edmundsbury and 24.4 per cent in Forest Heath, the highest level in the county, have experienced tooth decay by the age of five, compared with the east of England average of 23 per cent.

On Monday Suffolk County Council’s public health team launched the Keep Smiling Campaign, designed to improve and encourage children’s oral health.

Parents will be able to get promotional packs, containing a toothbrush and toothpaste, and advice about brushing technique, dentist visits and what food and drinks for children to avoid.

Cllr Alan Murray, Cabinet member for health and adult care, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to encourage healthy teeth and gums from an early age, which in turn will stand children in good stead throughout their lives.

“This innovative project provides practical support to parents, and seeks to dispel some of the myths surrounding when and how to brush children’s teeth.”

The survey also showed 34.1 per cent of 12 year olds in Forest Heath and 31.7 per cent in St Edmundsbury had suffered from some tooth decay.

Dental problems are the most common cause of hospital admissions for under tens, a fact which Dr Rebecca Coleman, who works at Guildhall Dental Surgery in Bury, said is a real worry for dentists.

“Over the last ten years I have seen many more kids coming in with decay in their teeth and who have to be referred on because we cannot treat them,” she said.

“It is stressful for the children, their parents, and for us as dentists, so it is in everyone’s interests to avoid it.”

Dr Coleman said diet was ‘the most important part’ of preventing tooth decay.

Dr Coleman recommends parents supervise their child’s tooth-brushing until they are at least seven years old, that sugary food and drink intake should be limited, and advises regular visits to the dentist.

“It is a preventable disease, if you put the right measures in place you can easily avoid it,” she said.