ALTHOUGH adequate dental provision has been a contentious issue in the Borders over the past couple of years, new Government statistics suggest that children in the region have the best teeth in Scotland.
After concerns from both residents and local politicians, dental care in the Borders was given a boost two years ago when new facilities were opened in both Coldstream and Hawick and they appear to be paying dividends as a report by the National Dental Inspection Programme showed that 77.2 per cent of P1 children in the Borders have no signs of tooth decay, well above the national average of 64 per cent and a Government target of 60 per cent.
Dr Ross Cameron, medical director for NHS Borders said the Inspection Programme’s findings showed that the health board had taken a big step in the right direction when it came to improving oral health for youngsters in the area.
He commented: “NHS Borders is committed to improving the dental health of communities throughout the Scottish Borders.
“Feedback from both staff and patients has been very positive to the significant investment we have recently made into dental care and the opening of new dental centres at Hawick and Coldstream.
“These results, which reveal that NHS Borders is the best performing in Scotland in relation to P1 children showing no obvious sign of tooth decay, demonstrate that dental health in this age group has improved and that in the Scottish Borders we are making real strides in improving the dental health of children.
“However this work needs to continue as a priority to ensure young people learn good dental habits early on that they can take with them into adult life.”
Minister for Public Health Shona Robison welcomed the report’s findings and announced the roll out of the £15m Childsmile nursery, school and practice programmes - which will be delivered in every health board in Scotland in the new year.
Ms Robison said: “It is fantastic to be able to say that our primary school children now have the best oral health since our records began.
“We wanted 60 per cent of primary one children to have no sign of tooth decay by 2010 - not only has this been met, it has been improved upon.
“Thanks to work to ensure that children know the importance of dental care at the earliest age, Scotland’s children are now primed to have a lifetime of good oral health.
“Childsmile is an ambitious programme and I am pleased to say that all elements of the programme will be now be delivered in every health board in the new year.
“Through Childsmile nursery we have seen specially trained dental nurses going into schools and providing clinical preventive care to children.
“Targeting children in the most deprived areas, Childsmile School will also deliver a range of preventative care interventions for children in primary one and two to reduce the risk of dental decay.”
The Scottish Government worked with partners, including health boards, schools and general dental practitioners, across Scotland to develop the Childsmile Programme, which aims to improve children’s oral health.
The programme emphasises the importance of tooth brushing and helps parents establish a healthy diet from the earliest stage.