Dentistry in Wales – consultation response

In 2018 we responded to the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee’s inquiry into dentistry in Wales. We welcome efforts to improve children’s oral health and have outlined recommendations for improving rates of tooth decay in Wales.

The National Assembly’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee exists to examine Welsh Government legislation relating to the physical, mental and public health and wellbeing of the people of Wales, including the social care system. 

In 2018, the Committee undertook a one day inquiry into Dentistry in Wales, following the Welsh Government’s publication of Taking Oral Health Improvement and Dental Services Forward in Wales in 2017. One aspect of the inquiry was to consider he effectiveness of local and national oral health improvement programmes for children and young people – full details of the inquiry are available online.

Our response

  • Despite tooth decay being almost entirely preventable, tooth extractions is the most common reason children aged five to nine require admission to hospital.
  • Reduction in consumption of high sugar foods and drinks is key to improving children’s oral health.
  • Our 2017 State of Child Health report analysed data to compare ‘no obvious signs of tooth decay’ across all four UK nations. In Wales, the proportion of five year old children with no obvious tooth decay in 2013 was 59%, compared to 69% in England.
    • Data also highlighted that children living in the most deprived areas are three times more likely to experience severe tooth decay than their peers living in the most affluent areas.
  • There is not usually a formal referral pathway between dentists and paediatricians.
  • Children’s oral health can be an indicator of general health and wellbeing and can be a way of detecting issues from poor diet and risk of obesity to neglect.

Our recommendations

  • Ongoing development, implementation and evaluation of national oral health programmes for children and young people, building on Designed to Smile.
  • All children should receive their first check-up as soon as their first teeth come through and have timely access to dental services for preventative advice and early diagnosis, with targeted access for vulnerable groups.
  • Children need timely access to both primary and specialist dental care to reduce the likelihood of serious complications following early tooth decay.
  • Good oral hygiene and reduced sugar consumption, coupled with access to timely primary dental care, are important for reducing tooth decay in children.
  • Welsh Government should explore the option of fluoridation of public water supplies across Wales, particularly in areas where there is a high prevalence of tooth decay.
  • NHS Wales, Welsh Government and Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) should ensure that all health care professionals, including dentists, can make every contact count by having conversations with their patients (whatever their age) about reducing and replacing high-sugar foods and drinks.

We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: