Dental hygiene classes in South Yorkshire as 'a lot of families can't afford toothbrushes'

toothbrushing classes
Classes are being held to teach children the basics of dental hygiene. Credit: PA

Organisers of new dental hygiene lessons for children say a lot of families "can't afford toothbrushes".

Classes are being rolled out across schools in Barnsley to teach youngsters the basics after South Yorkshire was named as having the highest rates of childhood tooth decay in the country.

Last year, 3,325 children across the region were admitted to hospital for tooth extractions. Around 85% of those appointments were because of tooth decay.

Kelly Shaw, who supports families taking part in the classes, said: "We've got 30% of children at the age of five with very bad oral health that are having teeth taken out on a regular basis which is not good.

"A lot of our families can't afford toothbrushes, so we can help with that and we can give them free support.

"We guide, we're not here to judge at all, but we do encourage them that poor dental hygiene and oral health will have an impact on those children."

Barnsley Council is funding supervised clubs at schools, family hubs and other childcare settings to help children understand why brushing should be part of their daily routine.

It comes after a report by Healthwatch Barnsley found more than 60% of respondents had been unable to get an appointment with an NHS dentist in the last two years.

Barnsley mum Izzy has spent months calling dental surgeries across South Yorkshire to try and find her daughter a place.

Izzy Macfarlane, a mother from Barnsley, has been trying to find a space at an NHS dental surgery for the last six months, without success.

Izzy said: "It's just so frustrating, it's out of my hands. I do worry about if my daughter gets tooth ache. No one wants to see their child in pain, I just want what's best for her.

"I think us less privileged people are honestly just pushed to one side with it. All these dentists that are privatising, there's nothing left for us and I feel we still deserve healthcare, even if we are lower class."

Paediatric consultant Jen Kirby, who works at Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in Sheffield, has carried out research into how dental decay impacts children.

She said: "They can't sleep, can't eat on that one side, they have to change what they eat because they can't have hard foods, they miss days off school and parents then miss days off work.

"If we equip our children now with the skills for preventable dental decay, they'll take that forward whenever they have families and that chain going around will then stop that cycle of further children coming into the services."

The government launched its £200million Dental Recovery Plan in January, to incentivise dentists to treat patients who have not been seen by an NHS dentist in two years.

In response to concerns regarding children's oral health, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "Mobile dental teams will be sent into schools in under-served areas to deliver advice and treatments to more than 165,000 children.

"These measures are part of our wider Dental Recovery Plan, which will create 2.5 million more appointments in England.”

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