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​Welsh Government must not rest on its laurels on tooth decay

19 September 2019


BDA Wales has urged the Welsh Assembly Government not to rest on its laurels following the progress made by its Designed to Smile oral health programme, which celebrates its 10th birthday today.


While tooth decay in five-year-olds in Wales has declined by more than 10% since 2008, thanks in part to the programme, progress remains slow, and Welsh children's oral health still lags significantly behind their English counterparts. Dental decay is present in 35.4% of five-year olds in Wales.


BDA Wales has also expressed profound concerns that the current refocusing of Designed to Smile on under-5s has meant substantially redeploying a static budget away from older children. It understands several health boards have already stopped delivering fluoride varnish applications for 6-7 years olds through the scheme. Many such children do not have the option of seeing a high street dentist - 33% of children in Wales haven't seen a dentist in the last two years.


Dentist leaders have called for increased resources given the significant returns on investment these schemes generate through lower treatment costs, and for urgent action to address a mounting access crisis.


BDA research undertaken in April 2019 found only 27% (96 out of 355) practices were taking on new child NHS patients.


Lauren Harrhy, Deputy Chair of the BDA's Welsh General Dental Practice Committee said:


"Designed to Smile has made significant inroads, but the Welsh Government cannot rest on its laurels.


"Tooth decay remains the number one reason for hospital admissions among our children. Yes we're playing catch-up, but we still lag behind England in terms of oral health. 


"This scheme shows prevention works. So we need real investment from Ministers not penny pinching, and a willingness to act on a crisis that's left barely a quarter of NHS practices taking on new child patients."


BDA Wales

BDA Wales campaigns for the interests of all dentists working in Wales. With our elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts: join us.