Prevention is better than cure – the importance of oral health in the Early Years

3rd December, 2021

EYFS stands for Early Years Foundation Stage and is the standard set for education, teaching, learning and care of 0 to 5-year-olds. It was introduced as part of the 2006 Childcare Act and must be followed by all Ofsted registered settings and childminders.  A recent revision includes the promotion of ‘good oral health’ for children

Did you know? 

The most common reason for hospital admissions for children under 6 years old is to have teeth removed – the majority due to preventable tooth decay.

Annually in England, around 60,000 school days are missed due to children having tooth extractions and in London boroughs, alone acute dental care of children costs the NHS approximately £7 million

A British Dental Association (BDA) spokesperson states, ‘Between 25 and 40 per cent of five year olds across the UK have had tooth decay for a range of reasons, including a sugary diet, poor dental hygiene and, in much of the country, a lack of fluoride. Left untreated, tooth decay can cause severe pain, problems eating and sleeping, sepsis, and disrupt learning and development.’

Early years is crucial for speech and language development and school readiness,  unfortunately, preventable tooth decay is associated with delays in these developments. It can also impact the family, as parents or carers may need to take time off work to take their child for treatment.

It is shocking facts like these that have led to a requirement in the revised EYFS for early years settings to promote the ‘good oral health of children’.   The new addition to the welfare requirements has been widely welcomed by those in both the early years and medical sectors.

The overriding fact is that tooth decay is entirely preventable therefore it is vital to form good oral health habits from an early age to keep children from developing tooth decay.  Oral Health is an essential part of general health but it has often been neglected in curricula so its inclusion now is very welcome.

Encouraging children to build healthy habits from an early age is the added benefit that they will carry them throughout their lifetime, keeping their chances of developing decay low and being educated if they become parents themselves.

Good Habits:

The Office for Health Improvement spokesperson suggests the key areas that support child oral health include the following:

  • Encourage healthy food and drink consumption.
  • The use of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Identify and support families with children with urgent dental care needs to access care.
  • Signpost to routine dental care services.
  • Access to training to gain skills and confidence in oral health.

More information and resources are available:

Source news story from Nursery World EYFS Best Practice – All about… oral health | Nursery World