WHEN about half of all children in Bradford have rotting teeth and nationally tooth decay is still the number one reason young children are hospitalised, a terrible statistic, in England, we simply have to stop tolerating this year after year and DO something now.

Many reading this may wonder why something significant hasn’t been done about this national child tragedy earlier, especially given dental problems are easily preventable in over 90 per cent of cases, that children’s dental care is actually FREE on the NHS in England and this has been warned about many times in the past – surely Government should be prioritising such prevention, to protect our vulnerable children, instead of making excuses whilst it gets worse year on year. So what has gone wrong? We have to understand the main problems first, so we can more clearly focus upon the right solutions.

These are:

1. Sugar causes tooth decay – this is a big problem because sugar is now added to so many more foods and drinks, even just savoury foods and snacks, that a typical child may have x 10 sugar attacks a day upon their teeth. Basically, sugar feeds bacteria that then grow quickly into a clear sticky film - plaque - that rots and infects teeth.

2. Toothbrushing – this is done to remove all the growing plaque bacteria, down to harmless levels, but it is often done badly, many areas missed or simply not done even once a day, so the teeth - and gums - get decay and infections.

3. It’s difficult to get an NHS Dentist – yes because the NHS dental system is limited and based upon targets called UDAs, which have been discredited for 10 years now. They limit how many patients a dentist can see and ironically, if the dentist sees more than a few high-needs patient that takes extra time and care - like a child - then the dentist will get punished by the system and even FINED by losing some of their funding for next year - how crazy is that?

This will be even worse in the coming month as we approach the year end of April 1 and dentists must meet their targets quickly or be called an ‘under-performer’ for caring more and spending more time with nervous or more needy patients. This terrible NHS dental system is the number one reason most dentists go private, to not be restricted with rules and time limits or fines for caring for more high needs patients.

The campaign aims to better inform parents, adult carers and the whole population on a number of simple ‘self-help’ tips and tricks one can do to improve dental prevention, from reading labels more closely to reduce sugar-attacks upon teeth, to adults ALWAYS supervising children brushing teeth for two minutes properly, to using fluoride toothpaste and spitting out but NOT rinsing, as well as ALL children seeing a dentist before aged one.

You see pain is a late sign of dental trouble, because the nerve is in the middle of the tooth. If infected when the rot is deep it can cause abscesses, infection entering the body and bloodstream and even cause medical complications too – I dread the day when I will read about a child dying because of complications from a dental infection from deep dental decay that could have been prevented.

So I implore everyone to join in and support and promote this local initiative and lobby Government to stop making excuses, to make sure areas like Bradford are included in their prioritised areas - it isn’t, amazingly - and to consider a proper national media dental prevention campaign that England can be proud of, not ashamed of internationally by its chronic failures and spun excuses in this regard.

Maybe Bradford can lead the way locally and show how it can be done, to protect our vulnerable children and make prevention and care central to improving dental health, reducing future medical complications and hospital admissions, so our children and our society have a better future.

It’s time to Stop the Rot, together!

Dr Tony Kilcoyne is a local dentist, specialist and campaigner.