Go to content

Government failing to break link between decay and deprivation

The British Dental Association has accused ministers of dragging their heals on policies that could narrow the huge oral health gap among children.

New data on the oral health of year 6 schoolchildren shows those living in the most deprived areas of the country were more than twice as likely to have experience of tooth decay (23%) as those living in the least deprived areas (10%).

The Government pledged to consult on tried and tested preventive programmes before the 2019 election, but nothing has ever been taken forward.

Ministers are still dragging their heels over a recovery plan for NHS dentistry. Ideas trailed to the press last weekend include directing hundreds of millions to practices in rural England, which the BDA has said will not begin to address the deep inequalities that plague urban England. The Government has said its ambition is to ensure NHS services can be accessed by all who need them, but not offered any concrete plans capable of achieving that goal.

Wolverhampton, which has the highest percentage of children with decayed, missing or filled teeth – at 42.7% would be unlikely to see any benefit from a policy focusing on ‘rural’ practices.

The survey finds big disparities in the prevalence of experience of tooth decay among ethnic groups, that remain concentrated in urban England. Levels are significantly higher in the ‘other’ ethnic group (22%) and Asian or Asian British ethnic group (18%) than in the white ethnic group (16%) and black or black British ethnic group (13%)

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“For a generation, ministers have failed to grasp that decay and deprivation go hand in hand.“This Government likes to talk about prevention but has offered nothing. It has promised access for all but looks set to just throw money at target seats in rural England.

“Our youngest patients are continuing to pay the price.”