Teachers distribute toothpaste as rising costs in UK affect pupils’ dental health | UK cost of living crisis

According to new research, four in five UK teachers have been giving away toothbrushes and toothpaste to pupils as the cost of living crisis hits children’s oral health.

A survey of secondary school teachers by hygiene poverty charity Beauty Banks and the British Dental Association (BDA) found that 81% of teachers said some children in their school had no access to toothpaste, with 41% saying it leads to social exclusion because of poor oral hygiene.

The study came as household budgets continued to take a beating in the UK, with double-digit inflation and the International Monetary Fund warning that Britain is set to be the only major industrialized country to face a a shrinking economy this year.

Three-quarters of teachers said lack of access to toothpaste and toothbrushes led to children having discolored teeth, half said they knew of children with visible tooth decay and just under a third had seen children suffer from dental pain or halitosis.

One in four teachers surveyed said they were kept awake at night worrying about the well-being of their students, while 38% said they felt helpless.

Researchers spoke to 260 UK state secondary school teachers, including a deputy head teacher in Lewisham, who said some pupils still wore Covid masks to hide their mouths. The safeguarding manager at the same school in Lewisham said the cost of living crisis had led to more calls from parents who could not afford basic hygiene products.

“Cases of bullying among young people due to symptoms associated with poor oral hygiene are at an all-time high,” they said. “[We] deal with many students who do not brush their teeth daily, rarely shower and cannot afford to wash and dry their clothes effectively.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recently warned that toothbrushes were becoming a “luxury item” for some families and that children’s dental health was a “national disgrace”.

Jo Jones, co-founder of Beauty Banks, which was set up in January 2018 to support UK families who cannot afford to stay clean, said: ‘We work with charities including food banks, family centers, domestic violence centers, homeless shelters and universally – across all walks of life – toothpaste is now our most requested item. Before the cost of living crisis, he wasn’t even in the top 3”

Tooth decay is the most common cause of hospitalization in young children, ahead of acute tonsillitis.

The BDA has warned that tooth decay in children has reached epidemic levels, and that any recent gains are set to be reversed by continuing access issues and the disruption of public health programs. The latest NHS dental statistics show 44.8% of children have seen a dentist in the past year, up from 58.7% in 2019-20.

Last year, research from the BBC and BDA found that 91% of practices in England could not take on new adult NHS patients, while 79% were not accepting new child NHS patients .

British Dental Association president Eddie Crouch has accused the government of “falling asleep at the wheel” and failing to tackle the crisis.

“Our youngest patients are facing a perfect storm, with millions unable to access care, or even the basics to maintain good oral health. This shocking survey highlights that deep inequalities in health are set to widen,” he said.

theguardian Gt

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