The inequality of children’s oral health demonstrates the need for greater effort to engender more preventative strategies, says Denplan
The current state of children’s oral health in the UK has once again been making the headlines this week. Whilst Denplan welcomes the news from Public Health England that the number of five year olds with tooth decay has dropped to its lowest level in almost a decade, there is still much greater effort needed to install better prevention strategies in order to eradicate this entirely preventable dental disease in the child population.
Commenting on the PHE survey results, Henry Clover, Chief Dental Officer at Denplan said: “Although the figures show that the number of five year olds with tooth decay has dropped from 31% in 2008 down to less than 25%, this still represents a quarter of the country’s five years olds suffering from an entirely preventable disease. Focusing on comparing data to previous years is not that helpful and the government, working with the profession, must not shy away from seeking to tackle this problem head on.
“The current NHS contract makes it more difficult for dentists to care for children with the worst dental health, a key factor in the need to reform the system introduced in 2006. Any new contract, must put prevention strategies at the forefront and recognise that good dental health in childhood is vital, not only for lifelong oral wellbeing, but for good overall health.
“Denplan believes that a dental health assessment should happen by the age of one to prevent early onset of disease. Denplan’s research conducted with YouGov revealed that only one in five parents of children aged 18 or under (19%) said they first took their child to the dentist before 12 months of age1.”
The PHE statistics also revealed that in some areas, such as the North West, a third of five year olds (33.4%) are suffering from tooth decay, compared to only a fifth (20.1%) in the South East.
“This inequality in children’s oral health demonstrates there is still a huge regional variation, with areas of higher levels of deprivation tending to have higher levels of tooth decay. Investment must continue to be targeted to areas where access to dental services is low to improve provision and inequalities. The development of more multi-skilled dental teams could also help provide more effective and economical outcomes in helping treat children with more extensive oral health needs. Therapists, hygienists and dental nurses could also play a crucial role in this.”
Last but not least, Denplan believes is still a lot of work to be done to engender more preventative behaviours amongst the public as a further report this week2 revealed that four in ten people fail to brush their teeth at least once a day.
Henry Clover concluded: “Dentists and their practice teams can also play their part by taking responsibility for improving oral health in their own communities by engaging with local authorities, schools, early years and other health services and helping to raise awareness of the links between oral health and overall health. The training of other health and care professionals such as midwives, school nurses, social workers and care home workers will also help ensure oral health messages are more widely disseminated, thereby helping to engender more preventive behaviours amongst the public.”