Over the last term I have been really noticing how much time schools are losing to dental appointments within the school day. Although the simple solution would be to say that appointments should be made after the end of the school day, the vast majority of these appointments are for hospital treatments.
I’m sure there are a number of reasons for this but the high proportion of sugar in children’s diets has to be a huge factor. As this recent articles on the BBC news suggests https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46720303 most 10 year olds exceed the maximum amount of sugar allowance you would expect for an 18yr old.
In addition, a quick trip around the supermarket makes it obvious that it can be cheaper for a parent to buy a packet of biscuits to fuel their child rather than a bag of apples.
We also have to consider how much time we give to educate children (and their parents) about dental hygiene. Many moons ago the local dental hygienist/dentist would be happy to visit school and discuss dental health with classes. Children would be shown how to brush correctly and the reasons why this is important. Locally I know that this practice is seen less often for a whole variety of reasons.
However, if your M coded absences are high and you are noticing a lot of time being lost to dental appointments then I believe consideration should be given to simple ways you, as a school, can address this:
– Could the information be flagged to parents in a newsletter with some links to good healthy eating resources such as https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/food-facts/sugar/sugar-swaps-for-kids the Change for Life Campaign.
Could a healthy cookery course be run for parents after school -not only increasing parent engagement but supporting them to look at how they can eat more healthily on a budget
Could the local dental hygienist/dentist be approached to ask for advice and support for pupils -perhaps they would be prepared to visit?
Are you offering healthy snacks and water in school or are parents/children opting for high sugar/chocolate snacks – what about a healthy lunchbox campaign?