A scheme to improve children’s teeth in Wales has helped to achieve 35,000 fewer fillings, 6,000 fewer extractions and an overall reduction in tooth decay.
September 19th 2019 marked the 10th anniversary of Designed to Smile, set up and funded by the Welsh Government to target children in areas where levels of tooth decay were highest. Tooth decay is one of the highest reasons for hospital admissions among young children with them undergoing tooth extractions under general anaesthetic.
Before Designed to Smile launched in 2009, half of five year olds in Wales had tooth decay. Since its introduction this has been reduced to a third – around 4,000 fewer five year olds having decay.
The programme has also seen a 35% reduction in the number of children undergoing dental procedures under general anaesthetic in the last six years. Resulting in 3,200 less children a year having to undergo treatment to remove decayed teeth.
Tooth decay is a particular problem for children from disadvantaged areas. Dental disease levels in children in Wales continue to improve across the country. The latest survey shows a 13.4% reduction in the proportion of children with decay, with 15% drop in disadvantaged areas.
Each year over 90,000 children in 1,200 schools and nurseries take part in the tooth brushing scheme run by Designed to Smile.
Whilst procedures and tooth decay are falling, the number of children attending a dentist is increasing. Maintaining regular visits to the dentist is essential to good oral health.
Minister for Health and Social Care, Vaughan Gething, said: “There is no doubt that prevention works, and results in less children suffering and having to take time off school due to tooth decay.
“Studies show that children with tooth decay in their baby teeth are three times more likely to have decay in their adult teeth. We need to make every effort to keep children decay free by five.
“The last ten years have shown what can be achieved through preventative measures. A scheme that was criticised by some when first introduced has brought about great changes and had a significant impact on children’s dental health. Whilst we celebrate this milestone, we must strive to eradicate tooth decay completely.”