Growhampton's
Sugarless Green Project

 

In 2019, Public Health England conducted a study to understand the relationship between obesity and oral health in young children. Interestingly, their results showed that children who were underweight were at higher risks for developing dental cavities alongside children who were overweight or classed as obese for their age and height. In the United Kingdom there is a strong correlation between children’s weight (particularly obesity) and tooth decay due to cavities. The main cause of both concerns is the high rates of sugar consumption and poor oral hygiene coupled with a lack of public awareness that dental is free for all children (0-18).

 

 

 

What are the major concerns?

The UK Government aims to halve the rates of childhood obesity by 2030 and in doing so reduce some of the health inequalities that exist across the society. London is the third worst area in England when it comes to tooth decay in children. On average hospitals in London pay £7million each year for child tooth extractions, having spent over £30 million in the last 4 years on top of the cost of treating child tooth decay in primary care (British Dental Association, 2019).  Presently, 9 out of 10 hospitalised dental extractions for children (0-5 years old) are to remove cavities that could have been prevented with better oral hygiene care. To date tooth extraction is still the most common hospital procedure for children (6-10 years old). The British Dental Association shared that 98% of dentists in London are urging Mayor Sadiq Khan to introduce supervised brushing in nurseries and to promote that dental care is free for children (0-18), especially given that tooth decay can begin in children as young as 3 years old.

 

What’s the impact on children?

Dental disease can impact children’s abilities to eat, sleep, speak, play and socialise with other children. It is interesting to consider that in the UK 1 in 8 children (12%) have nightmares about their teeth and 1 in 5 children (18%) are unhappy about their smile and stressed about the appearance of their teeth (Oral Health Foundation, 2020). Often it causes children to miss school (tooth aches, or dental extractions) and parents to lose income due to time off work.

 

What is this project about, and how does it help?

At Roehampton University we are introducing a new project through our Growhampton Student Union called ‘Sugarless Green’. This project is a fun and educational programme that teaches children (ages 4-12) from our local community and schools about sustainable gardening and oral hygiene. The aim of this programme is to give children an engaging activity to commit to memory the importance of oral hygiene through the proper techniques of brushing and food choices by showing them why it is better to swap sugary treats for healthier vegetables. By selecting a range of appropriate vegetables which are good for oral health, the activities are aimed to demonstrate proper brushing techniques (e.g. brushing the soil off a carrot up and down), the impact of sugar on teeth (e.g. trying to brush sticky caramelised sugar off beets), and the importance of flossing (e.g. demonstrating flossing techniques to get food items out of potato-carved teeth). The act of using an old toothbrush in the gardening space enables the children to commit to memory the muscle motions involved with using techniques of brushing along with the time to spend each day to oral care.

 

What does participation involve?

Our students at Roehampton will be working with the young children and facilitating the programme activities, which are free for the children in the local community and schools. One session is expected to be approximately 45-minutes and will take place on the University campus. Under the umbrella of Growhampton initiatives this project is also environmentally sustainable as it informs children how to upcycle their used toothbrushes by transforming it into a gardening tool. Each child will be provided with a sustainable bamboo toothbrush as a keepsake for participating and a means to raise awareness about more environmentally kinder options as alternatives to plastic toothbrushes.

Interested in participating please get in touch for the programme details, or to participate or arrange attendance for sessions.

 

© Melissa R. Jogie, November 2020