Last week I spoke at the launch of Teeth Team's annual report at the Houses of Parliament. Teeth Team is a well-established and nationally-recognised child dental health improvement initiative that takes dental education directly to children by going into local primary schools.
We donate 10% of our pre-tax profits to charitable partners every year and dental health, particularly early years' preventative care, is one of our areas of focus. That's why we started supported Teeth Team last year.
Support is needed because, despite a nationwide trend in improved oral health, regional variations show there is a clear link between poverty and tooth decay. Many children, especially those living in areas of social and economic deprivation, are not getting the dental treatment they need.
We know that the number of tooth extractions performed on under-18s in England is rising - with a shocking 170 extractions taking place under general anaesthetic each day.
And 1 in 4 five-year-olds have tooth decay when they start school. This is despite tooth decay being preventable in 90% of cases. This in my opinion is not acceptable.
As a mother of three children, including a 15-year-old and a five-year-old, dental health has always been an important part of our daily routines. Of course, this has not been without its challenges. I'm sure many of you will know how hard it can be to get our children, whatever their age, to brush their teeth properly every day and remember the importance of visiting the dentist. But I also know I've been very fortunate to have the knowledge of good oral healthcare to help my children.
Statistics are shocking because they reveal that many families are not receiving the regular dental check-ups and oral health education that many of us take for granted. This makes it impossible to break cycles of poor oral health, placing many children at a health disadvantage for life.
It was the shared recognition of the need to tackle this inequality that led to the development of our relationship with Teeth Team. And it's why the programme is so important.
By taking tooth brushing, fluoride varnishing, oral health education and support directly to schools, Teeth Team is helping children learn the skills needed to exercise good oral health into adulthood.
Last year, we donated £137,000 to Teeth Team to help fund the programme's expansion into more deprived communities. It now covers a further 33 primary schools across England. The team are now supporting more children than ever before and, ultimately, making great progress in widening the accessibility of good dental care.
As Managing Director of Simplyhealth Professionals, part of our business is providing Denplan payment plans, I know from our work with our member dentists that good oral health is a key component of overall health and wellbeing.
Children who undergo restorative dental treatments often require more complex and costly treatment as they get older.
And, with evidence indicating there is a link between poor oral health and the development of chronic health conditions, it's clear that good dental hygiene must be embedded into a child's healthcare as early as possible to give them the best start.
In the year ahead, we look forward to working with Teeth Team to increase awareness of the need for good child oral health, and to improve health outcomes for children across England who are vulnerable to tooth decay, helping them to make the most of life through better everyday health.
A Healthy smile should not be a postcode lottery.