Len D’Cruz speaks out about child dental health in London

Len D’Cruz speaks out about child dental health in London

The BDA’s Len D’Cruz, giving evidence to a London Assembly inquiry, said: “Decades of improvement in children’s dental health are heading into reverse.” The BDA urged the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to follow the example of other city leaders, and tackle deep seated oral health inequalities among the capital’s children.

Len D’Cruz giving oral evidence to the London Assembly said: "Across London decades of improvements in children’s dental health are heading into reverse. The Mayor must now lead where Ministers have failed to do so. When the capital’s NHS is under huge pressure we do not accept it’s inevitable to spend £7 million each year removing rotten teeth from children.

"London faces unique challenges, with a million kids missing out on free care, and teenagers in some communities risking oral cancer through betel nut and paan consumption. From public health campaigns to supervised brushing in nurseries – the Mayor can offer more than the radio silence we’re getting from Westminster. Dentists back Mayor Khan’s bid to make London the world’s healthiest city. But that can only be achieved by tackling the deep and persistent oral health inequalities that blight the capital."

Dr Tom Coffey, the Mayor’s health adviser, said: “Responsibility for dental care in London lies with the NHS, but the Mayor will use his position to pressure Government.” Under the Mayor’s Healthy Early Years programme, nurseries and childminders help youngsters learn about “the importance of eating less sugar, brushing their teeth properly, and visiting the dentist regularly”

The inquiry heared survey evidence from dentists practising in every London Borough, revealing a strong desire for concerted action:

  • 97% of dentists believe Mayor Khan should follow the Mayor of Greater Manchester in introducing supervised tooth-brushing into all nurseries and other early years settings across Greater London. These schemes are core elements of national child oral health programmes in Wales and Scotland, and according to models from Public Health England would generate up to £3 return on investment for every pound spent through lower treatment costs.
  • 98% believe the Mayor of London should run a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of regular dental attendance from an early age and the fact that all dentistry is free for under-18s.

Over a quarter (26%) of 5-year-olds in London suffer from decay – making London the third worst area in England in terms of child tooth decay outcomes, after the North West and Yorkshire and Humber. This figure also hides massive inequalities between different London boroughs, with outcomes varying from 14% in Bexley to 40% in Harrow. In the best-performing local authorities in England only 5% of 5-year-olds suffer from decay.

While nationally there has been a slow but steady improvement in child oral health, 10 of the London boroughs have also seen a marked deterioration in children’s outcomes over the last two years, with children in areas like Camden and Sutton up to a 25% more likely to suffer from tooth decay now than they were two years ago.

The BDA has also urged the Mayor to consider the specific oral health needs of various immigrant groups in London, and co-ordinate relevant, culturally sensitive and accessible awareness raising campaigns on the risks of smokeless tobacco use and products such as shishas, betel nut and paan. Respondents to the BDA survey have identified cases of paan chewing among children as young as 5 years old, developing precancerous conditions known as submucosal fibrosis by the age of 14.


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