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Children's Oral Health Affected by the Cost of Living Crisis

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As the cost of living crisis continues, the British Dental Association has reported that four in five teachers are now providing pupils with toothpaste and toothbrushes.

Following on from these findings, they have worked with the hygiene poverty charity Beauty Banks on new research on secondary school teachers across the UK. It outlines the shocking state of their pupil's oral health, and why government has a responsibility to act.

The survey reveals:

  • 83% of secondary teachers say they or their school have given students toothbrushes and toothpaste. 81% said there are children in their school who don't have regular access to supplies

  • 40% said this leads to students being socially excluded by their peers because of oral hygiene issues. Half report children isolating themselves. One third have witnessed bullying directly

  • 25% say children miss school because of poor oral hygiene. Three quarters (74%) said children who don't have regular access to oral health products have discoloured teeth. Half said children had noticeable tooth decay. 30% noted children in dental pain or suffering from halitosis

  • Nearly a third (31%) of teachers who witness poverty in the classroom said it affected their mental health. 1 in 4 are kept awake at night worrying about their students' wellbeing. 38% report feeling helpless.

Ongoing access problems and cost of living pressures represent a perfect storm for teachers and their students, with millions unable to access routine preventive care, and many now unable to afford the basics to maintain good oral health.

"This shocking survey underlines that deep health inequalities are set to widen" says BDA Chair Eddie Crouch. "Yet while our children face an epidemic of decay, the government seems asleep at the wheel."

Jo Jones, co-founder of Beauty Banks said: "We work with charities including food banks, family centres, domestic abuse centres, homeless shelters and universally - across the board - toothpaste is now our most requested item. Before the cost of living crisis, it wasn't even in the top three."

In August, BBC research in partnership with the BDA found that 91% of practices in England could not take on new adult NHS patients, with 79% not accepting new child NHS patients.

The testimony from teachers is heart-breaking. The Designated Safeguarding Lead in a secondary school in Lewisham said: "With the cost of living crisis, we are getting more calls than ever from parents who cannot afford to buy basic hygiene products. The cases of bullying amongst young people because of symptoms associated with poor oral hygiene is at a record high."

The Pastoral Leader for Key Stage 3 said: "The pastoral team within school are dealing with many students who are not brushing their teeth every day, are showering infrequently and cannot afford to wash and dry their clothes effectively."

The assistant head teacher noted "some students are still wearing Covid masks to hide their mouths."

Whilst the BDA and other charities continue to put pressure on the government to improve access to dental care for children, offering dental insurance to your staff could be a way to enable their families to access much needed dental care. All of our company dental insurance policies include check-ups and hygienist visits. The importance of preserving good oral health, can help to stop more serious dental conditions from developing, as well as preserving overall good health.

All of our company dental insurance plans will allow you to continue to visit your current dentist whether they are NHS or not. As more dentists leave the NHS this makes it easier for your employees to access affordable dental care.

if you would like to talk to us about setting up a company dental insurance plan for your employees, please contact us today.


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