“APPALLING” tooth decay problems among youngsters in Southampton could be tackled by a series of new initiatives which could be rolled out in the city.
Civic chiefs say they are looking at a number of ways to tackle poor dental health among city youngsters, after plans to fluoridate much of the city's water were dropped.
As reported in the Daily Echo, Public Health England (PHE) has scrapped plans to add fluoride to the tap water of 200,000 households in Southampton and Hampshire.
The decision came more than two decades after the proposals first surfaced, and six years after the South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) approved the plans.
A recent report issued by PHE showed that 10.5 per cent of three-year-olds in Southampton have tooth decay and city council chiefs are keen to grab as much of the estimated £200,000 annual funding that would have been available forfluoridation to fund other initiatives to battle oral health issues among children.
Council health chief Dave Shields said some people in the city suffered “appalling dental health problems”, and that he was already considering a number of ways the decay rates could be brought down.
He said: “We can deal with symptoms through targeted tooth-brushing programmes in certain areas.
“This would be linked to anti-poverty programmes promoting oral health and better diets to families experiencing difficulties through centres, such as Sure Start Centres.”
Council leader Simon Letts said: “What we don't want to happen is that PHE, having got hold of funding for fluoridation, take their ball home and refuse to have any more input into improving dental health.”
He hopes the council can learn from the Childsmile initiative in Glasgow, but says PHE stumping up funding is key due to the stretched nature of council finances.
A number of different initiatives run through Childsmile, such as running tooth brushing and fluoride varnish sessions at nurseries and primary schools, and dedicated support workers who contact families to offer dental health advice and help them find a dentist.
Every child is provided with a dental pack containing a toothbrush, tube of toothpaste and an information leaflet on at least six occasions by the age of five.
Cllr Letts hopes to meet with PHE soon to discuss funding, with PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie already confirming the organisation intended to work with the city council on other initiatives.
The British Dental Association's Clive Marks, who works at Bedford Place Dental Centre in Southampton, said the solution to the city's dental woes consists of working with parents and their youngsters from a young age to work on tooth brushing and cutting down on sugar intake.
He said: “It's about early engagement and support - that's all that's needed.
“Get everything right with the first set of teeth and then by the time the other ones come through at about the age of six they will be in good habits.