There is a “North-South Divide” For Children’s Dental Health, According to Report

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Friday 3rd November 2017

According to a report on children’s dental health, there is a regional and wealth gap which means a child in Yorkshire and the North West is far more likely to require hospital treatment for dental health, according to a study undertaken by the Nuffield Trust.

While there is some variation within the data, the general trend is that dental health is better in the east and south of England compared to the north of England. The study also notes that dental health as a whole has improved.

The study, collated in Root Causes, a report looking at the quality as well as inequality in dental health, was looking at the general state of teeth in England. The results as a whole are positive, with the number of five year old children who have had tooth decay fell by 20%, although when separated across regions, the percentage of five year old children with decayed, filled or missing teeth ranges from between 14% to 57%. A child in Yorkshire has a five times greater chance of having a tooth extraction in hospital than a child in the East Midlands.

Inequality was a major theme of the report in general, from child to adult, with the number of hospital admissions for dental work in deprived areas being double that in the most affluent areas of the UK. Children eligible for a free school meals scheme (a barometer of children from low income families) were less likely to have a good overall level of oral health compared to those that did not and were also less likely to attend a check-up. Finally, later in life, someone from the north has quadruple the likelihood to have none of their original teeth than someone from the south east of England.

There is a lot of interpretation that can be done on the results, but there is a connection between consuming high amounts of sugar and smoking, and negative effects on dental health. Smoking causes damage to the gums and sugar consumption causes plaque and erosion of the tooth surface. What was also noted in the report is that there is a correlation between both consumption of food with a high sugar content and smoking with deprivation and poverty. Access to NHS dentistry is also something noted in the report; with waiting lists getting longer and with half of the dental practices on NHS choices not accepting new adult patients, the choice for people who cannot afford private dentistry is limited and involved long waiting times.

The report calls for greater access to treatment, as well as for dentists to educate people on looking after their teeth and preparing diets that are friendly to their teeth.

Access to dentists, as well as healthy affordable food and advice for people is less affluent areas is an absolute priority to preventing the inequality showcased in this study, particularly with regards to children’s dental health. Children from a very early age need to be provided with care, check-ups and education in order to have the best chance of healthy teeth later in life.