Nearly a quarter of five-year-olds in England have tooth decay, with children from the most deprived backgrounds being more likely to experience problems with their teeth.
Experts in oral health say including a requirement to promote good practice in brushing and oral hygiene for pre-school children in the EYFS would help tackle the problem.
Here, Celia Freeth, early years quality assurance manager at Havering Education Services, outlines three top tips for early years settings to implement and maintain a positive oral health and wellbeing programme:
- Practical workshops
It can be difficult for parents to access the right knowledge and practical advice, and we have found parental workshops to be invaluable in promoting oral health, healthy food choices and local dentist options. Practitioners have also said they feel better equipped when discussing oral hygiene and changing behaviours related to brushing teeth with young children and their parents.
- Removing the fear factor
Role-play kits, toothbrushes, toothpaste and storage facilities approved by the Oral Health Foundation are a great way to help children understand the importance of oral health and remove the anxiety around going to the dentist. Interactive learning is further effective as it encourages children to get hands-on with good practice. Thanks to the work carried out in our settings, children are reporting that they are no longer worried or frightened to visit the dentist.
- Connecting oral health and wellbeing
Taking care of your teeth is a key element of developing a healthy lifestyle and habits which help to inform a happy mindset. Through highlighting the relationship between oral hygiene, healthy choices and mental health, we can empower children with vital self-care and confidence skills. Settings might also want to explore the opportunities and provision in the local area or online to bolster their activities.
By building oral health awareness from early years and supporting parents and practitioners with good quality resources, we can equip children with essential lifelong health and wellbeing skills.