A debate on children’s dental health ended with a request to council officers to explore the possibility of whether water supplies could be fluoridated.
Acknowledging it is a controversial subject, members of Calderdale Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny board thought it was nevertheless an option worth exploring.
Coun Stephen Baines, who represents Northowram and Shelf for the Conservatives, proposed officers be asked whether the council could consult with the public about the possibility of fluoridation, and assumed they might have to go through neighbouring authorities to see if there was a consensus of opinion there.
Coun Silvia Dacre, the Labour councillor for Todmorden, supported the proposal – and board members agreed the request to explore the possibility of fluoridation should be made.
Coun Marilyn Greenwood, a Lib Dem councillor for Greetland and Stainland, said NHS dentistry provision was another key issue – on looking on behalf of someone who had just moved into Calderdale she said she found there were no NHS dental health appointments available in Calderdale, though one or two had arisen since.
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Many practices would not take children at all resulting in oral health problems requiring extractions surgical procedure when children’s teeth were in such a poor condition.
Providing fresh milk for more schoolchildren – the meeting heard nursery and reception classes get it – would also help.
It was important to explore all aspects which could improve children’s oral health, she said.
Board members heard that Calderdale compared favourably with the Yorkshire and Humber average on a range of childhood oral health outcomes, and the borough has improved over time.
But there remained scope for improvement and within the borough there appeared to be a correlation between poor oral health and deprivation which in turn correlates with dental access in the under fives.
Work is also ongoing to improve the oral health of Calderdale’s population as a whole through the newly-established Calderdale and Kirklees Oral Health Action Group, councillors were briefed.
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A presentation, by Assistant Director for Child Health Improvement, Ben Leaman, with dental public health expert Stefan Serban of Leeds University, revealed that the council undertakes many of the recommended and evidence-based interventions available to authorities.
But Calderdale is one of the worst authorities in the region when it comes to applying fluoride varnish to children’s teeth, one of the interventions which can help protect children’s teeth.
Statistics presented to the board showed water fluoridation provides a universal programme of protection, especially over time.
Other methods the council uses include targeted provision of toothbrushes and toothpaste, through postal schemes or through health visitors, oral health training for the wider professional workforce, integration of oral health into targeted home visits by health and social care workers, social marketing programmes to promote oral health and uptake of dental services by children, creating supportive environments, supervised tooth brushing in targeted childhood settings and promoting healthy food and drink policies in childhood settings.