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asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been called to a report indicating that the percentage of London children of five years of age with caries-free teeth has decreased considerably since 1947; what reports on this subject he has received from other parts of England and Wales; and if he will cause an inquiry to be made as to the reason for this deterioration and how it can be prevented.
According to a recent report by Lady Mellanby and others, 15·5 per cent. of London schoolchildren aged five years were free from dental caries in 1955, compared with 28·1 per cent. in 1947. A report from Staffordshire which was included in the Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report for 1955 also showed a decrease. Research into the reasons and into methods of prevention is proceeding; but my right hon. and learned Friend is advised that the deterioration is due largely to faulty dietetic habits and that the main hope of prevention lies in dental health education reinforced where necessary by the fluoridation of water.
Yes, but does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there are not enough dentists to give proper education and also to undertake the stopping of these teeth and their preservation for as long as possible? Will not he consider the desirability of making it easier for more suitable young men and women to become qualified as dentists by giving more places in the schools and more scholarships to enable them to take the courses?
Yes, Sir. In accordance with the recommendation contained in the McNair Report, a committee has been set up to examine the methods necessary to secure better public awareness of dental matters and to co-ordinate publicity in this sphere. Other recommendations of the McNair Committee are being followed up.
I agree completely that the reason for this deterioration must lie in faulty dietetic habits and that the question of dental repair and the use of dentists is secondary rather than primary in bringing about a solution of this problem, but has the Parliamentary Secretary noted that this process is apparent not only in Staffordshire and London but also in Scandinavian countries? What does the hon. Gentleman propose to do to see that we have the type of health education which will allow mothers to know how they should feed their children—for example, whether they should give them as many sweets as they do, or avoid the white bread which is now provided?
The hon. Member is correct in saying that this state of affairs does not exist only in this country. Research into the cause of deterioration and the means of prevention is at present in progress at a number of universities.