The omission of oral health from 'The Best Start for Life', The Early Years Healthy Development Review led by Andrea Leadsom,1 has been condemned by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD).
The newly published report provides a vision for the first critical 1,001 days of a child's life. Commissioned by Boris Johnson to improve the health and development outcomes for babies in England, there is scant mention of the mouth or of dentistry.
Claire Stevens CBE, BSPD spokesperson, said: 'This is a report which appears to deny the importance of oral health to the health and wellbeing of the nation's children. It's hugely frustrating that the contribution of paediatric dentists has not been sought despite an offer to pull together an expert group, making this a missed opportunity.'
The word 'dentist' is used once in the report.
Dr Stevens said: 'With childhood dental extractions under general anaesthetic being the most common reason for a child to be admitted to hospital, this omission is breathtaking. The report is 147 pages, yet there is sadly not a single mention of children's oral health.
'I am urging Andrea Leadsom and the Government to take up our offer and engage with paediatric dentists so that in the coming months, the oral health needs of children can be factored into the vision for a child's first 1,001 days.'
BSPD's data show that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on young children and those from lower socio-economic groups and waiting lists for general anaesthetics are unacceptably long.
BSPD has been urging Government to ensure that oral health is included in the review. A dental check by the age of one, for instance, gets children into the routine of seeing a dentist and gives parents access to all-important oral health and dietary advice.
While the pandemic was a barrier to routine dental visits, the BSPD believes that parents need to be encouraged to engage with dentistry and caring for their children's teeth.
The mouth is factored into the report under the heading of infant feeding with a brief reference to tongue-tie.
Dr Stevens said: 'We welcome the inclusion of tongue-tie. That any baby should be struggling to breastfeed due to tongue-tie is worrying. What we would like to see is a mouth check included as routine in the newborn check on every baby before they leave hospital so tongue-tie can be picked up early'.
HM Government. The Best Start for Life. A Vision for the 1,0001 Critical Days. The Early Years Healthy Development Review Report. 2021. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/973112/The_best_start_for_life_a_vision_for_the_1_001_critical_days.pdf (accessed 27 March 2021).
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Oral health omitted from Early Years Review. Br Dent J 230, 389 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-021-2895-1