6:04am Thursday 29th January 2015
By Neil Robertson
ONE in three children in Bolton do not have a dentist — and tooth decay rates for five-year-olds in the town are among the worst in the country. The number of decayed, missing and filled teeth that people have in Bolton is also twice the national average, new figures have revealed.
One top dentist told The Bolton News he has had to remove teeth from children as young as three and health bosses have repeated calls for children's exposure to fluoride to be increased.
Dr Michael Cahill, owner of Cahill Dental Care Centre, said: "I feel so sorry for the young children I have seen who have had to have their teeth removed, because dental decay is not their responsibility.
"However, it would be unfair to point the finger at parents because dental decay is not something any parent inflicts intentionally and sometimes it's difficult to say no to children.
"As a profession, we need to educate more parents and get the message across about the important of good oral hygiene." Nicki Lomax, consultant in public health at NHS Bolton, told councillors that the town had the seventh highest rates of dental decay in five-year-olds in the UK.
Speaking to the health overview and adult social care scrutiny committee at Bolton Town Hall on Tuesday night, when the figures were revealed, she said: “Dental decay causes not just pain to a child — it affects their self-esteem and quality of life.
“While 70 per cent of children in Bolton can access dental services, which is one per cent above the national average, there are still 30 per cent who can’t, which is a very high number.
“Families need to establish the key oral hygiene principles early and children need greater dental access.
“We are going in the right direction, but comparatively we have a long way to go.”
The most recent plans to add fluoride to Bolton’s water supply were shelved in 2011.
NHS North West, the regional health body at the time, drew up proposals for a £200 million fluoridation scheme in 2008 and 2009.
The aim of putting fluoride in the water supply is to strengthen people’s teeth and tackle the area’s poor dental health. It would have cost £200 million over six years and the annual running costs of the scheme would have been a further £5.78 million.
The debate as to whether to add extra fluoride to Bolton’s water supply has raged for more than 50 years. Bolton held a referendum on fluoridation in the 1960s and the public voted overwhelmingly against the idea.
Bolton North East MP David Crausby, who has long campaigned against fluoridation in Bolton, said: "These figures are appalling and completely unacceptable.
"This all comes down to a lack of investments in local dental services. A series of governments have let down the British people on the NHS dental services. "Parents need to be educated more about dental care — people must have the right information so they know what steps to make.
"We also need to look at the way that unhealthy sweets and drinks are marketed by some companies. The government needs to examine that." Ben Squires, head of primary care operations at NHS England, told councillors at the meeting it was "difficult to say" whether Bolton had enough dentists for every child in the town.
He said: "We would need to look at the number of children who are currently using dentistry and the number who are not. “We are looking to identify a number of practices in Bolton which could offer improved access to dental care, which should create that additional capacity.”
Dr Cahill added: "Dental decay is very much a lifestyle problem. "We know that the issue of dental decay is a hard issue and it's not a quick fix, but there are several steps we can take to tackle the problem.
"After children brush their teeth, they must spit it out, but they should not rinse their mouths with water, as this takes some of the fluoride from their teeth.
"Children should also regularly brush their teeth twice a day, for two minutes — once after breakfast and once before bed."