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Meet the team striving to transform child dental care across the UK

The health and well-being of children has certainly been hitting the headlines over the past few weeks. On August 18th the government released a plan aimed at tackling childhood obesity, but it was widely criticised by numerous industry experts.

Medical campaigners and experts labelled the plans as weak and ‘watered down’, as they relied on voluntary action and failed to restrict junk food marketing and advertising.

Mick Armstrong, Chair of the British Dental Association, commented on the release:

“It will take more than half-measures to deal with the sugar crisis. A sugar levy is one thing, but watering down action on junk food advertising and 2-for-1 deals sends entirely the wrong signal to business, parents and health professionals. The Health Secretary cannot afford to take a relaxed attitude to sugar. Children in his constituency might enjoy the lowest rates of obesity and tooth decay in England, but we think all children deserve the best start in life.

“We require a real strategy from government, one that is willing to address the huge, costly and preventable health inequalities Britain now faces. This isn’t rocket science, but we need Ministers to take a lead.”

A different approach

If there was ever a time when people needed a greater focus to be taken on dental health, it is now. And that’s exactly what Ingrid Perry did.

As a Practice Manager at mydentist in Bridlington, Ingrid was already well aware of the direct correlation between poor general health and poor oral health. But in 2006 she visited a local primary school to deliver an oral health education session, and was approached by the head teacher who expressed concerns about the number of children taking time off because of toothache.

Having witnessed the effect of poor dental health first hand, Ingrid felt inspired to raise awareness of the importance of children having access to regular dental care. As a result the Teeth Team programme was set up in 2010.

Teeth Team currently works with more than 9,000 children across the city of Hull. Working entirely on the efforts of volunteers and the support of businesses in the dental industry, the programme visits schools and teaches children the importance of healthy diets, effective tooth brushing and regularly attending dental checkups.

And that’s not all they have done. In 2012 they launched, an oral health education hub aimed at those aged five to 16 with games, lessons, and resources for parents and teachers alike. Later that year they introduced fluoride varnish applications for children undergoing dental assessments as a quick and simple way of reducing the risk of tooth decay. 

Since then they have received endorsements from the National Oral Health Promotion Group and the Oral Health Foundation, and have partnered with a number of businesses to take their efforts further, including Colgate, mydentist and Siemens.

“Although the government have plans to implement a national initiative in the autumn, there will undoubtedly be some areas of England that miss out due to funding constraints,” Ingrid commented. “Many local authorities are already struggling to balance the books with their limited budgets and unfortunately, dental health appears to be very low on the list of priorities.

“The advice I would give to anyone who may be faltering on a project is to never give up if you truly believe in what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes it may feel like everything is against you no matter which way you turn, but if you know in your heart you can and will make a difference, then never walk away!”

What does the future hold for Teeth Team?

With nearly 10,000 children supported across Hull and East Yorkshire, the growth of the Teeth Team shows no sign of slowing down with an expansion into Lincolnshire. They also have further plans to grow across the country in the near future.

But ultimately, Ingrid has stated that she would like to see a Teeth Team programme in every town and city in the UK, so their passion can continue to make a huge difference to so many children’s lives.

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