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More work needed to tackle oral health inequalities among children in Scotland

22 October 2019

New data from Scotland shows that children's dental health has improved, but more needs to be done to tackle persistent oral health inequalities, says BDA Scotland.


The latest report of the National Dental Inspection Programme shows that in 2019, 80% of Primary 7 children are free from tooth decay – that's up 3 percentage points from the last report in 2017 and 27 percentage points since the first report published in 2005. These figures also show that the average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth per child reduced from 1.29 in 2005 to 0.42 in 2019.


However, the BDA is concerned that stark oral health inequalities remain, with the percentage of Primary 7 children free from dental decay in the most deprived areas almost 19 percentage points worse than those in the least deprived areas (69.5% versus 88.1%). The corresponding differences in 2015 and 2017 were 21.5 and 20.9 percentage points, respectively – so while the gap has narrowed slightly, the difference remains substantial.


Children from the most deprived communities also experience more than three times the level of tooth decay compared to their counterparts in the least deprived areas (0.69 versus 0.20 decayed, missing or filled teeth per child).


While Scotland is making progress in the fight against tooth decay, the BDA has called on the Scottish Government to renew its efforts to tackle deep inequalities by investing more on prevention and local resources.


BDA Scotland supports the innovative Childsmile programme, and awaits to see what impact the Scottish Government's 3-year Community Challenge Fund has on reducing oral health inequalities.


Robert Donald, Chair of the British Dental Association's Scottish Council, said: 


"It's good to see children's dental health improving, but there is absolutely no room for complacency.


"There has been a slight reduction in the inequalities gap, but the difference remains stark.


"Ministers need to ensure that not only is the overall improvement sustained, but also make every effort to tackle inequalities in the oral health of our children."


BDA Scotland

BDA Scotland supports, represents and promotes, the interests of all dentists working in Scotland. Working with elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, and pay and contracts. Join us.