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How can I help address inequalities and support oral health?

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Key messages for parents, grandparents and other care-givers

Those who care for children can be supported to look after their oral health through promotion of the following key messages:

  • Begin toothbrushing as soon as the child's first tooth appears.
  • Gently brush teeth and gums twice a day.
  • Use a small brush and 1000ppm fluoride toothpaste.
  • Supervise toothbrushing until at least age 7.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks, especially fizzy drinks.
  • Only give milk or water to drink between meals.
  • Avoid 'no-spill' feeder cups with valves, especially with fizzy drinks - use a free flow or plain cup instead.
  • All parents should register their children with a dentist and visit every 6 months.
  • All parents should receive free brushes and toothpaste from their Health Visitor or via their child's nursery, plus a free-flow feeder cup around age 1.

To find a local NHS dentist, parents can enter their home postcode and select 'dentists' on the NHS24 local services page (external link).

For more advice on toothbrushing, weaning, tooth-friendly food and drink, the Childsmile programme and more, parents can visit: www.child-smile.org.uk

For information and details of local support, parents can visit Parenting Across Scotland (external link) or call ParentLine Scotland on 0800 028 2233.

Please also see below for further resources.

Nursery school staff and childminders

All nurseries can get support from their local Childsmile co-ordinator to provide daily, supervised toothbrushing and to distribute free toothbrushes, toothpaste and information leaflets at regular intervals.

Further, targeted support is offered via nurseries in certain areas. For more information contact your local Childsmile co-ordinator (external link).

In addition:

  • Provide activities that promote the value of toothbrushing and awareness of the effects of sugary foods and acidic drinks.
  • Only offer healthy snacks and milk or water between mealtimes.
  • Do not provide fizzy or acidic drinks.
  • Encourage parents to register their child with a dentist.
  • Speak to parents and encourage them to see a dentist immediately if you see obvious signs of tooth decay or if a child reports dental pain.
  • Be prepared to offer (or refer on) to additional support to help them do this.
  • Give details of local NHS dentists.

To find nearby NHS dentists, enter your postcode and select 'dentists' on the NHS24 local services page (external link).

A range of resources and supplies to support Childsmile activities can be ordered via your local Childsmile co-ordinator (external link) or downloaded from the Childsmile website.

Please also see below for further resources.

Primary school teachers

Primary schools in selected areas are supported by the Childsmile programme to provide daily, supervised toothbrushing and twice-yearly fluoride varnishing to some P1 and 2 children. For more information, contact your your local Childsmile co-ordinator (external link).

All primary schools should:

  • avoid providing fizzy or acidic drinks and sugary snacks
  • display and distribute all Childsmile resources as intended
  • promote the value of toothbrushing and regular visits to the dentist
  • provide learning opportunites around healthy eating in line with Curriculum for Excellence food and health experiences and outcomes
  • encourage parents and carers to consult a dentist immediately if there are obvious signs of tooth decay or if a child reports dental pain.

Please also see advice given above for nursery staff and childminders and see below for further resources.

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Health visitors

Health visitors are a key part of the Childsmile programme and are ideally placed to develop trusting, respectful communicative relationships with parents of the type they most value.

Health visitors and public health nurses should liaise with their local Dental Health Support Workers and identify children and families who would most benefit from targeted direct Childsmile support.

Childsmile supplies can be ordered via your local Childsmile co-ordinator (external link).

Health visitors can help in the following ways:

  • distribute Childsmile brushes, toothpaste, feeder cups and information leaflets at designated intervals
  • discuss good toothbrusing technique, appropriate weaning foods and drinks and tooth-friendly dietary advice with parents
  • encourage all parents and carers to register with and regularly visit a dentist
  • provide support and information as needed to facilitate access to dental services
  • encourage parents and carers to see a dentist immediately if you see obvious signs of tooth decay or if a child reports dental pain
  • observe good 'Inclusive Communication Practice' as set out in Principles of Inclusive Communication - A self-assessment tool for public authorities
  • use the 'Teach-Back Technique' to help ensure important information has been adequately understood: Teach-Back Technique Postcard (Download PDF - 360kb)
  • ensure that fathers are equally consulted and informed in matters concerning the health and wellbeing of their children (except where precluded by child protection concerns).

Service managers and commissioners

Service managers and commissioners can help by ensuring:

  • healthy food and drink options are provided wherever children are catered for
  • opportunities and facilities for toothbrushing are provided
  • any Childsmile resources received are displayed and distributed as intended.

Childsmile supplies can be ordered via your local Childsmile co-ordinator (external link).

GPs

Professionals working in general practice are the most preferred and trusted source of health information for parents.

GPs can help by:

  • encouraging all parents and carers to register with and regularly visit a dentist
  • discussing good toothbrushing techniques and appropriate weaning foods and drinks
  • referring to your practice Health Visitor for free universal and targeted Childsmile provisions
  • providing support and information as needed to facilitate access to dental services
  • encouraging parents and carers to see a dentist immediately if you see obvious signs of tooth decay or if a child reports dental pain.

To find an NHS dentist, enter your patient's postcode and select 'dentists' on the NHS24 local services page (external link).

Your local dental health support worker may be able to advise further on additional support for vulnerable families. For more information contact your local Childsmile co-ordinator (external link).

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Voluntary sector workers and managers

Voluntary sector workers and agencies can assist by:

  • promoting the value of toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste
  • encouraging all parents and carers to register their child with and regularly visit a dentist
  • discussing good toothbrushing techniques, appropriate weaning foods and drinks and the importance of avoiding sugary snacks and acidic (fizzy) drinks between meals with parents and children
  • encouraging parents and carers to consult a dentist immediately if you see obvious signs of tooth decay or if a child reports dental pain
  • offering support to access dental health services.

To find an NHS dentist, enter a client's home postcode and select 'dentists' on the NHS24 local services page (external link).

Please also see advice given above for nursery staff and childminders and see below for further resources.

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