A DENTAL health initiative in Scotland has contributed to a reported 14 per cent reduction in obvious tooth decay detected among primary one children over the last eight years and this has resulted in a saving of nearly £5 million a year in treatment costs, according to Scottish Public Health Minister Maureen Watt.
The Childsmile programme offers every child attending nursery in Scotland free daily supervised tooth brushing and this extends into primary schools in the most deprived areas.
Children are also offered free toothbrushes and toothpaste and two fluoride varnish applications per year. Parents and adult carers are given dietary advice for children in their care to help prevent and mitigate tooth decay.
The Scottish Government has reported that more than half a million fluoride varnishes were carried out in nurseries and schools from 2006 to 2013. This contributed to the number of primary one children with "no obvious decay experience" rising from 54 per cent in 2006 to 68 per cent in 2014.
Watt said: "We’ve made great progress since 2007 in improving access to NHS dentists – with 92 per cent of Scottish children now registered. The success of the Childsmile programme speaks for itself, saving millions of pounds and making such a difference youngsters’ oral health.
"This is a really tremendous example of spending to save. The Childsmile programme shows what can be achieved when we have a real focus on prevention – in particular in the world of public health."
The British Dental Association has welcomed progress made by the Childsmile programme. It calls for the Scottish Government to build upon this success and expand coverage, and for administrations across the UK to take heed and invest in prevention.
Mick Armstrong, Chair of the BDA, said: "Childsmile has produced substantial savings, but this isn’t just about money. First and foremost it has saved young children from distress, days out of education, and ultimately avoidable dental treatment.
“Tooth decay remains the leading cause of hospital admissions among our nation’s children. It’s time for proper joined-up thinking that ensures healthcare professionals, educators and parents can provide the very best for the next generation.
“The lesson from Scotland is clear: it’s time to invest in prevention.”