Saving Kids’ Teeth 2017: Part One

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Dr Linda Greenwall opens the Saving Kids’ Teeth 2017 campaign, supported by the Dental Wellness Trust

It was Friday 3rd November at the prestigious Lord’s Cricket ground and Dr Linda Greenwall welcomes a packed auditorium of dentists and other health professionals to Saving Kids’ Teeth 2017 campaign and a day dedicated to one core subject, the dental health of children.

Linda is the founder of the Dental Wellness Trust which, since 2011, has been helping care for the teeth of 10,000 children in a tin shack township just outside Cape Town’s airport in South Africa. One million people live there in extreme poverty. They have no access to running water or soap. Toothpaste and toothbrushes are a luxury few can afford.

Linda had witnessed the need of these people when she took a trip into the township, something she had been strongly advised not to do. What she saw there compelled her to contact the Mayor of Cape Town and ask what could be done. His reply, “Why don’t you open a clinic there?’ A clinic takes a while to establish, but Linda’s passionate need to do something for the children inspired her to create the Dental Wellness Trust.

Thanks to the Trust’s “Mamas”, community women who are dedicated to the Trust’s cause, and to Good:Deed toothbrushes (for every brush purchased one is donated to the charity) thousands of children face a future of improved dental health. The Dental Wellness Trust also provides targeted dental health education, and continuously researches the effectiveness of everything it does. Linda believes it is not enough to just believe one is doing good – you must also see honest positive results from your efforts.

But more needs to be done, and not just in Africa where 80% of children suffer from dental decay. There are real problems much closer to home.

The Saving Kids’ Teeth campaign and Dental Wellness Trust recognise that providing clear education and raised awareness of the factors that impact children’s teeth are essential. Talks throughout the day at Lord’s highlighted these factors and called for dental professionals and other healthcare practitioners to speak with patients and parents about these issues.

Linda asked why 46,000 children in the UK must undergo the trauma of general anaesthesia in hospital every year, purely due to the need for extractions caused by preventable dental decay. She talked about the 16,000 children living below the poverty line in Luton, for which her Trust has set up a monthly oral health education programme in primary schools there.

Every child in the UK, she says, should at least have a toothbrush. Oral health is a basic human right enshrined in law. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, plans a major health programme across London and Linda wants to ensure that child dental health is very firmly on the agenda.

When she was a child Linda wanted to change the world for the better, as so many children do. Then all too often the needs of real life get in the way and the plans are put to one side. Not for Linda. She loves what she does for a living and makes time for the work she believes in. She agrees that one person can make a difference, but we can do so much more when other people get involved and support us.

She asks if people can help the work of the Dental Wellness Trust, with a donation, as an individual, as a dentist, as a group, or as a charity. Just a little goes a long way. Linda concluded with a quote: “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple.

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The day was sponsored by Colgate, Philips, Henry Schein, GC, Belmont, DMG, SDI, Trycare Dental, Cerezen, Microminder and Premier.

Next: Professor Jenny Gallagher discusses Caring for children – the future oral health workforce: a global perspective.