Regions differ for children’s teeth

Published: Tuesday 24th February 2015 by The News Editor

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There are huge regional discrepancies in the health of children’s teeth, dental experts have warned.

The most deprived areas of the country have 40% of five-year-olds with dental decay, Sandra White, director of dental public health at Public Health England, told a health select committee hearing into children’s oral health.

She said the figure is 15% in the least deprived areas, adding: “It is a very significant difference.”

Dr White said children who have problems with their milk teeth are more likely to show signs of decay in their adult teeth.

“That’s why it’s very important to get these life skills and this behaviour in place at an early age and instil them,” she said.

She said that offering preventative advice could sometimes be better than “filling and drilling”.

But she added: “What we don’t want to see is supervised neglect.”

Chief dental officer for England Barry Cockcroft said that while child oral health has improved significantly over the past 50 years, “there is too much a burden of dental disease in those that do have the disease and that’s very much linked to deprivation, to social factors”.

He told the hearing that one of the reasons tooth extractions are so high in children from deprived areas is because they are only accessing care once they have developed symptoms.

Dr Cockcroft said more work is needed across the system to address the “preventable” problem including by creating greater public health awareness.

“I think we shouldn’t see this purely as a dental issue,” he said. ” This is a societal issue that we need to address across a broad front.”

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recently urged local authorities to help tackle the problem in disadvantaged areas of England.

The health body said the people most at r isk of tooth decay and gum disease are among the most vulnerable in society who are dependent on others to care for them, such as young children and frail older people who need help to stay independent.

It said schools and nurseries should help children brush their teeth, adding that severe tooth decay has been reported in children as young as three and in many cases is starting earlier.

The guidance came after data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre found the number one reason for primary school-aged children being admitted to hospital in 2013-14 was to have multiple teeth taken out.

Published: Tuesday 24th February 2015 by The News Editor

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