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Shocking inequalities in oral health revealed

3 March 2016

Shocking inequalities in oral health revealed

An introduction to this week's newsletter...

In a week where a puppy with shiny new braces captured hearts across the world, we heard of yet more illegal tooth whitening scandals in the UK. This time, the service was not being offered discretely in a beauty salon tucked away in Royal Wootton Basset but right under our noses in the UK’s largest supermarket chain!

Yes, Tesco was in the General Dental Council spotlight this week as an investigation found that sales assistants from the Regis UK concession stands in Tesco Extra stores were offering tooth whitening services without being GDC registered.  

After “advice and guidance” from the GDC on the laws surrounding tooth whitening, Regis UK have since removed tooth whitening from their services.

“Truly inexcusable”

Also receiving some well needed media coverage this week is the tragedy that is childhood tooth extractions in England. New figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) have revealed that there have been over 120,000 cases of children having teeth removed in England because of decay between 2011 and 2015, with the rate of extractions having risen by almost 10%. 

Even more concerning was the strong correlation between areas of deprivation and the rate of tooth extractions, with the rate being almost five times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.

Nigel Carter, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, described the volume of children being admitted to hospital as “truly inexcusable” and, with speculation that the government will soon reject the proposed sugar tax, he says that we are no better prepared than we were when the problem came to light two years ago…“with each passing year the situation is worsening.”

A Government wake-up call

Mick Armstrong, Chairman of the British Dental Association hopes that the findings will be a wake-up call to the government for “its failure to get to grips with prevention.”

“Under-fives are ending up in hospital for tooth extractions because successive governments have treated oral health as an afterthought.”

Along with many dentists Mick Armstrong has called for a shift away from existing government targets towards more prevention-focussed practice.

“This evidence underlines the fact that oral health inequalities are widening. Today sugar consumption is driving decay, simple health messages are struggling to be heard, and dentists are told their priority isn’t prevention, but hitting government targets. We are dealing with an avoidable epidemic, and are looking to government for real leadership, not more half measures.”

What do you think? What are the most important steps to tackling child tooth decay? How should dentists’ targets be altered? Comment below or send your thoughts to editor@healthcare-learning.com. Until next time…

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