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New Survey Shows Effect Cost of Living Crisis Has on Child Dental Health

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A new survey has confirmed that the cost of living crisis is damaging child dental health. Three hundred & thirteen members of the School and Public Health Nurses Association (Saphna) and the British Dental Association were asked about the impact of changes to children’s diet resulting from increasing prices, upon their health.

Key findings were that, 65% of respondents said that children’s health has got worse as a result of poor nutrition. This presented as slow weight gain in growing children (53%), changes in behaviour (55%) and more frequent mental health problems (51%). Even more frequently observed was an increase in severity and numbers of children’s teeth with decay, reported by 78% of respondents.

One paediatric dentist told the survey:

“I have noticed at work more patients are being referred from different socioeconomic backgrounds than previously, more patients from the working population. Cost of living rises are quoted to me pretty much every day when I talk about food now. Parents are making decisions based on cost rather than nutrition and they frequently comment in my surgery that they cannot afford healthy food like they used to. Poor nutrition results in higher levels of caries, which in turn results in dental pain and infection. This then means that children can be reluctant to eat at times.”

Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association, said: “Our kids are born into a toxic food environment, and dentists see the results every single day.

“Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children, and bad diets are fueling it. Free School Meals is a simple step that would put prevention to work in every school in this country.”

The survey comes against a background of food prices reportedly reaching their highest level in 45 years.

The study was carried out by Saphna and the BDA as part of the ‘No Child Left Behind’ campaign which is urging the government to commit to free school meals for every primary school pupil in England. The governments of Scotland and Wales have started rolling out universal free school meals to primary school pupils, while London will follow in September.

All children in maintained schools in England are entitled to free school meals up to the end of Year 2, after which it only applies to households on certain benefits.

Sharon White CEO of Saphna, which works with 5,000 school nurses across the UK, said: “This is about political choices, this is not about money.”

She said ministers should significantly widen the eligibility for universal credit and free school meals to ensure that “the children that need it, get it”. As an example, she gave a family with two working parents and three children who are now struggling, but who do not qualify for universal credit as they earn more than the £16,000 a year threshold.

“We’ve got so many people on the borderline that don’t qualify for universal credit and they are desperate,” said White.

More than three-quarters of those surveyed said a daily nutritious meal would improve the health of primary school pupils to a large or very large extent. Ninety-four per cent of respondents backed the proposal overall.

With an election approaching and politicians reluctant to commit to major spending pledges, neither of the largest parties have committed to providing free school meals for all.

If you would like to find ways to support your employees with children, speak to us today about how a dental insurance plan can help.


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