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A new scheme to improve children's oral health launched today by Health Minister, Andy Kerr, has been welcomed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The Childsmile (West) Project will ensure that the parents of those children in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, and Ayrshire and Arran, who would otherwise be at an increased risk of developing tooth decay in early childhood, get easy access to oral health advice from birth.
In the programme areas, health visitors refer newborn children who have been assessed as being at increased risk of developing tooth decay into the scheme.
Their parents will be assisted by dental health support workers in the community to access oral health promotion advice from dental nurses in dental practices. This advice will relate to tooth development, diet, toothbrushing and in later years clinical preventive care.
Mr Kerr said: "Childsmile is about the prevention of tooth decay from birth.
"We have already made great strides in improving children's oral health in Scotland. Fewer children than ever before now have tooth decay at the age of five.
"And toothbrushing schemes across Scotland are working well, with 90,000 nursery age children now participating.
"Childsmile will build on these improvements and reinforce the message that good diet, effective regular toothbrushing and regular visits to the dentist are the keys to improving children's oral health.
"We know that by the time many parents of pre-school children take them along to the dentist it is often too late and Childsmile aims to address this and ensure children are seen before oral disease appears.
"It is during infancy and early childhood that the foundations for good oral health are established. Childsmile will ensure that information and support about good oral health starts from the moment children are born."
A total of 46 dental practices in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, out of 73 in the west of Scotland, are signed up to scheme, which will be evaluated over three years and rolled out across the rest of the country.
Catherine Jones from Belhaven Dental Surgery, William Street
Port Glasgow, whose practice was involved in the initial stages of the scheme, registered their first patients within the last month.
She said: "The impact on our practice has been that we are bringing in a lot of people who would not normally come into a dentist and register.
"We really want to try and take the fear factor out of a visit to the dentist and show that appointments are not just about extracting teeth."
David McCall, Consultant in Dental Public Health, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said:
"Childsmile is a welcome and needed resource to Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
"No parent wishes their child to get tooth decay at any age. Perhaps, too few parents really believe that they can do anything for their children to avoid tooth decay, but they are mistaken.
"Childsmile aims to provide support to parents to provide encouragement and information that will help parents to maintain the health of their children's teeth."
The programme has now commenced, with the first infants having been seen by community based dental health support workers and referred to dental practices for preventive advice and care.
A total of 90 dental nurses have already received training for Childsmile, which supports children up to the age of five.
Professor Lorna Macpherson, Director of Childsmile (West), said: "Childsmile (West) provides a wonderful opportunity to improve the oral health of young children in Scotland.
"It provides a clear care pathway for young children to follow, through enhancing work between health visitors, dental practices and other members of the primary health care team.
"We hope this new programme will result in the adoption from a young age of healthy behaviours, including diet, which will continue throughout life and should benefit not only dental but also general health."
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. An Action Plan for Improving Oral Health and Modernising NHS Dental Services in Scotland (March 2005) outlines the development of two major demonstration projects to deliver improved child oral health in the West and East of Scotland.
Childsmile is the name given to link the two demonstration programmes and pre-school health promotion and tooth brushing programmes in nurseries and schools.
2. Children in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire and Arran health boards will benefit from the Childsmile (West) project.
Childsmile (West) will be complemented by Childsmile East, which will aim to improve children's oral health in the east of Scotland. The programmes will be rolled out across Scotland in due course