Initiative aimed at improving oral health of children launched

The 'Happy Smiles' programme was launched in Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

The 'Happy Smiles' programme was launched in Northern Ireland on Wednesday.

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Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has launched a new initiative aimed at improving oral health amongst pre-school children.

The Health Minister launched the ‘Happy Smiles’ programme in Primate Dixon Primary School in Coalisland on Wednesday.

This initiative is designed to improve the oral health of pre-school children through making tooth brushing a part of the daily activities in pre-school, helping children to make healthy choices for snacks and break, and learning about oral health more widely through songs, music, stories and drama.

In launching the programme, Minister O’Neill said: “I am delighted to be here in Coalisland to meet the children who have been taking part in the Happy Smiles programme and hear more about what they have learned.

“Early interventions in all areas of health and social wellbeing can have positive influences on outcomes for childhood and the rest of our lives.”

Bringing together best practice from existing programmes, the Happy Smiles initiative encourages shared responsibility and collaborative effort between Community Dental Services, school teams, parents and their children.

The Minister continued: “Happy Smiles is an excellent example of inter-agency working, where health and education professionals have come together to design and deliver a programme that can make a real difference to the oral health of children and young people and I look forward to it being rolled out across the north.”

Between 2004 and 2014, the number of children requiring a general anaesthetic for dental treatment has decreased from almost 8,856 in 2004 to just over 5,172 in 2014. Furthermore, the number of five year old children registered with a dentist has risen dramatically enabling positive preventative work by family dentists and their teams in supporting families in the early years. The Happy Smiles programme aims to build on this success and further improve the oral health of young children.