HL Deb 24 March 1960 vol 222 cc245-6

3.4 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the unsatisfactory condition of our children's teeth, they will consider favourably supplying without charge a mug and toothbrush to all national school children.]


My Lords, my noble friend's proposal seems to imply that the provision of Government toothbrushes and Government toothmugs would produce a dramatic improvement in the teeth of the children of this country and that the unsatisfactory state of children's teeth to-day is mainly caused by their failure to use these implements. Neither of these premises stands up to serious examination. The chief cause of dental decay in children is the large quantities of sweets and biscuits munched between meals. Moreover the provision of mugs and toothbrushes would have little purpose without supervision of their use, and this would inflict a serious problem of organisation upon teachers which the Government do not think they should, or should be asked to, undertake. Both the provision of equipment and supervision of its use are more properly, more conveniently and more effectively left as a parental responsibility.

The whole problem of the care of teeth is under review by the Standing Advisory Committee on Dental Health Education set up by my right honourable friends the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and Her Majesty's Government would prefer to await any recommendations by that Committee on the proper care of teeth before coming to any decision on my noble friend's proposal.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comprehensive Answer. I should like to ask him whether he is aware that my reason for asking the Question is that I was for two-and-a-half years chairman of the Inter-departmental Committee on Teeth and Dentistry in this country, and that I also have knowledge of the teeth of the Chinese. I hope that the Minister will go into that question. No nation has more lovely and beautiful teeth than the Chinese, and the children in the schools there all have a toothbrush What is called the Teviot Report proves conclusively that the health and also the endurance of children and adults benefit by the use of the articles I suggest. I hope the noble Lord will bring that before the Minister, and I ask him if he will do so.


My Lords, my right honourable friend does not need to be reminded that children's teeth are getting steadily worse and already have a higher incidence of decay than before the war. But the question is whether this is the right way of tackling the problem. Her Majesty's Government at the moment think it is not.

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