A war on tooth decay has been launched in Middlesbrough as it emerged the town is the 10th worst in England for dental health in under fives.

The shocking statistic was made by Public Health England (PHE) after research found 17% of three-year-olds in Middlesbrough already have decayed teeth.

That rate is 40% higher than the national average – in England, the rate is 12%.

As a result, Middlesbrough Council and NHS England Cumbria and the North East have launched a joint programme – Starting Well: A Smile4Life Initiative – to increase uptake of both school and dental practice prevention programmes to prevent dental decay in young children.

The programme will be available to all children, with a focus on those who are not currently visiting the dentist and under one-year-olds.

As well as encouraging parents to take their children to the dentists by the time they are one year old, preventive advice about reducing sugar intake and increasing exposure to fluoride is given to parents.

Charlie Daniels, chair of the Tees Local Dental Committee, said dental health inequalities mean Middlesbrough’s most deprived wards have the highest rates of dental disease and the lowest levels of attendance, making prevention more difficult.

“For Middlesbrough to be the 10th worst in the country for tooth decay is clearly not right,” he said.

“One of the biggest problems driving this are the massive inequalities we have in Middlesbrough.

“Many parents don’t bring their children to attend a dental practice until there is already a problem.

“We are trying to get the message across that they need to bring their kids into a dental practice by the age of one – it’s a preventative approach.

“Already there are three practices in Middlesbrough – Berwick Hills Dental Practice, Genix Healthcare Dental Clinic and my practice, D C Daniels Dental Practice – that are going into hard to reach areas to get the message across.

“We’ve been doing it now for a month or two. We’ve been to one school so far in North Ormesby and we’ll be attending mothering groups, in an effort to make sure all children see a dentist and stop the problems before they begin.”

The programme involves pre-school and school supervised tooth brushing programmes which will see over 5,500 children brushing their teeth daily.

The programme has been launched nationally in 13 high priority areas based on levels of decay, existing oral health improvement plans and trends in oral health.

The 13 high priority areas are (in no particular order):

  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Blackpool
  • Bolton
  • Ealing
  • Kingston upon Hull, City of
  • Leicester
  • Luton
  • Middlesbrough
  • Oldham
  • Rochdale
  • Salford
  • Slough
  • Wakefield

Middlesbrough Council has been contacted for comment.

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