Dental student project highlights sugar and diet in children’s oral disease

The most recent survey of the health of children’s teeth in England, Wales and Northern Ireland found that a third of five-year olds and half of eight-year olds had decay in their milk teeth.

Poor oral health awareness and an unbalanced diet high in sugar content were cited as contributing factors towards these shocking statistics.

In an effort to counter this, a group of dental students from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry are working with Ford Primary School in Plymouth and Plymouth Argyle Football Club in association with the Kinder+Sport initiative, to raise awareness of basic oral health and the perils of hidden sugar in drinks and food.

The students have carried out an interactive session in the classroom, which covered good oral care techniques and information about sugar in diet – including advice such as confining sugar consumption to mealtimes only and checking the labels of food and drink for sugar content.

Each child has been given a goody bag packed with helpful information about oral hygiene, as well as toothbrushes, toothpaste and timers with instructions, to ensure that children brush their teeth for those important two minutes twice a day.

The project was led by Sarah Hill, Lecturer in Community Based Dentistry at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. She said:

“While it is a sad fact that so many of our children are affected by oral disease, the good news is that on the whole it is preventable. With the right knowledge about how to look after their teeth, what to eat and when, children and their parents can be armed with what they need to improve oral health and avoid disease in the future. The students have put together a brilliant project in conjunction with Ford Primary School Plymouth Argyle and the Kinder+Sport initiative which is doing just that.”
The +Sport Move and Learn project manager, Stewart Walbridge from Plymouth Argyle, commented:

“Offering such a worthwhile project to local children across Devon and Cornwall is important to allow children to gain a better understanding around health and nutritional values and how our diets can affect our bodies. The +Sport Move and Learn Project has enabled us to work with over 3000 children from across Devon and Cornwall in two years. These children have not only been given the chance to learn about healthy lifestyles, they have been able to interact with three different sports (football, handball and dodgeball).” 
Argyle first team captain Curtis Nelson added: 

“The +Sport Move and Learn project integrates the importance of nutritional values and enables participates to become active and experience different sports. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young people to learn about the importance of health and activity. I’m pleased to be involved with such a worthwhile project.”
Ellis, a year five pupil at Ford Primary School, said: 

"It was really helpful to know just how much sugar was in a fizzy drink. We also learnt that even drinks like squash and Ribena have lots of sugar in them."
The project is part of the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry’s Inter Professional Engagement programme which sees dental students undertake a number of projects in the community designed to raise oral health awareness and to improve access to dental care. The programme is delivered by the Community Engagement Team at the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise.