Article written by Lisa Howells, Senior Dental Officer, Directorate for Health Policy, Welsh Government
Designed to Smile (D2S) is the Welsh Government funded programme to reduce tooth decay (dental caries) in young children in Wales. The programme is targeted on schools and pre-school settings in Community First areas where levels of tooth decay are highest. Tooth decay in children continues to be a serious health issue in Wales and is particularly common in children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2011/12 41% of Welsh 5 year olds had experience of tooth decay with levels of 60% in some areas. Typically a 3 year old in Wales with tooth decay will have about 3 decayed teeth (Welsh Oral Health Information Unit, 2014).
Tooth decay is almost entirely preventable by reducing the main risk factor (frequent consumption of sugary foods and drinks) and strengthening teeth against decay by brushing with fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before bed. Health professionals work with parents to improve children’s nutrition in Wales, but many young children have diets which are high in sugar and do not brush their teeth morning and night at home.
All too often tooth decay leads to infection, pain and sleepless nights. In England and Wales the most common reason for young children being admitted to hospital is to have multiple teeth taken out. In Wales over 8000 children have dental treatment under a General Anaesthetic every year – the vast majority for extraction of decayed teeth. Children pay a heavy price for our failure to prevent tooth decay.
Designed to Smile has three main elements:
The programme is delivered by qualified D2S teams who are part of the Health Board Community Dental Service. It is based on extensive evidence and is free of charge for schools and parents. D2S is independently evaluated by Cardiff University and there are indications that it is starting to reduce levels of decay. Many of you will be aware of D2S because your school is taking part – your support and interest is vital and has helped to ensure the programme is successful in so many schools.
If you are a governor in a school which is eligible to participate, but has chosen not to, you may like more information on the programme or to discuss the benefits of taking part with a member of your local D2S team. Your support will be extremely valuable. The Designed to Smile website is available in Welsh and English and includes further information as well as details on how to contact your local D2S team.
You can read more about children’s dental health in your area at the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit