20 March 2017, World Oral Health Day, could go down as the day when Cornwall took a lead role in improving the oral health of children up and down the country.
Cornish-based dental experts Smile Together are signalling their intention to reverse the continuing trend of avoidable tooth extractions from children – a serious public health issue which currently costs the NHS in England in excess of £130m annually.
Today sees the launch of Smile Together’s ‘Brighter Smiles’ campaign to bring local schools and dentists together in a bid to bring to an end the single biggest cause of hospital admissions amongst children aged 5 to 9 – tooth extractions.
This startling statistic, which has got worse over the past 9 years is, according to Smile Together, 100% preventable if children, parents and guardians have access to oral health education and fluoride applications at an early stage.
The Brighter Smiles campaign will see the company step up its work in tackling the issue and demonstrate that for as little as £1500 per school, health outcomes can be greatly improved for young children and significantly reduce pressure on the NHS.
To kick start the campaign, the company is funding a campaign manager role which will be advertised this week. The new role will aim to deliver this community-led approach in Cornwall and create a formula for national roll out. In addition, Smile Together will coordinate all activities to grow the campaign based on their experience in working with 30 schools across the county through its contract with Cornwall Council.
“What we know is that children, parents, guardians and schools welcome oral health education. For a start, it is fun and the feedback we get from the children involved is priceless,” explained Chris Roberts, clinical director at Smile Together. However, he warned: “But it needs to be scaled up now at a time when the average 5 year old consumes its own body weight in sugar every year and we are taking 179,000 of our children’s teeth out each and every year under general anaesthetic. Just stop and think about that for a second and consider that this is preventable if we pull together and provide the right support.”
Smile Together’s managing director Paul Critchley, continued: “Public money is tight so we need to think of new ways to tackle health issues. It would be much easier to sit back and complain about funding levels but that won’t reverse this trend. The reality of the situation calls for innovation rather than confined thinking. Our solution will encourage greater links between local schools and local dentists and this vital work will be funded by commercial sponsors and donations from local communities.”
The first village school to be treated under the campaign will be Indian Queens Primary School during National Smile Month from 15 May – 15 June, organised by the Oral Health Foundation and now in its 41st year.
Headteacher Jane Scown said: “We are really pleased to be selected as the pilot school for this extremely important campaign which we wholeheartedly support. Our pupils are looking forward to learning more about the importance of oral health.”
Over the coming weeks the Brighter Smiles campaign will:
Map the areas where it can make the greatest impact; Engage with local dental practices to explain how they can join the campaign, share resources, and take part without having to commit funds; Reach out to commercial sponsors to put in place the foundations of a national fund; Bring the problem to the attention of politicians.
It will also launch a dedicated website which is being provided by regional brand communications agency Fuel as part of a £20,000 commitment to the campaign.
For further information or to discuss and interview opportunity please contact Martyn King on 07815 322304 or martyn.king@fuelcommunications.com
Nationally, there are 26,000 admissions to hospital every year for 5-9 year olds for the removal of decayed teeth. In Cornwall this referral figure is approximately 1000 and it is the primary reason for hospitalisation in this age group. Smile Together is the only provider of oral health education and intervention in Cornwall with its Brighter Smiles programme currently visiting over 30 targeted schools and set to grow.

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