Tooth decay in Luton 5-year-olds is highest in the east of England

A dentist checking a child's teeth. Picture: Adobe stockA dentist checking a child's teeth. Picture: Adobe stock
A dentist checking a child's teeth. Picture: Adobe stock
Council steps up prevention strategy

Luton has the highest prevalence of tooth decay in five-year-old children in the east of England region, a meeting heard.

There has been a reduction over time, but the problem remains significantly higher than figures across England, according to a report to the borough council’s scrutiny children’s services review group.

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The severity of the dental decay in children aged five in the town is also above the national average at four teeth affected, explained the report.

“And five-year-olds from the most deprived areas of Luton have higher rates of tooth decay than those living in the least poverty stricken areas.”

“Evidence suggests that deprivation accounts for 40 per cent of the variation in levels of tooth decay,” Public Health England (PHE) warned in 2017. “They are two-and-a-half times more likely to have experienced dental decay.”

The highest prevalence of tooth decay experience within the town is in Challney at 49 per cent and the lowest in Bramingham at 15 per cent, based on 2017 PHE statistics.

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NHS dental contracts locally are commissioned by BLMK integrated care board (ICB) since April. Dental access in Luton is also “an ongoing issue”, the report to councillors acknowledged.

“We’ve put together our oral health offer for children from nought to ten, during the past year, with a strong focus on preventative work with our under fives.

“Information and communication is shared at key points and during visits with pregnant women and new mums who access health visitors and midwife appointments.

“School nurses, Flying Start community link workers and looked after children nurses are sharing age appropriate literature and resources.

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“We’ve also linked in with the healthy weight programme, the breast feeding strategy, food plan and family hubs.

“Promotional work has involved delivering toothbrush packs and 12 top tips leaflets to raise the profile of oral health in the community and schools.

“Public Health in Luton has provided a variety of resources, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, books and Teeth on Tour boxes containing a variety of colourful and informative education items which encourage storytelling and active play.”

The Dental Wellness Trust has been commissioned to provide a young oral health programme, including delivery of a live “smart” supervised toothbrush programme in all our primary schools, added the report. This follows recommendations from an oral health needs assessment.

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“Working closely with its outreach coordinator, we’ve widened health promotion providing top tips for brushing teeth, and the association of diet and impact on oral health.

“Dental pop up clinics have been arranged with a local dentist Obex and Flying Start. A pilot was run to deliver these clinics for children under five offering fluoride varnish, as well as oral health education and promotion.

“This was extended to under tens after parent feedback. The sessions are based in the community. Children could have their mouth checked by a dental nurse, where appropriate have fluoride varnish applied, and make an appointment with Obex.

“Ten clinics were scheduled initially, but 11 have been held following their success, with at least four more planned until the end of the year.”