BDA: We can break the link between income and oral health
The British Dental Association (BDA) has urged government to invest in prevention after new research has shown older people on lower incomes are likely to have as many as eight more missing teeth than their wealthier counterparts.
The study, a collaboration between Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, UCL and the National Centre for Social Research, shows oral health is markedly worse among the poorest 20 per cent of British society compared with the richest.
65-years olds in the poorest fifth of the UK population had, on average, eight fewer teeth than the richest fifth – a quarter of their full set.
More than 6,000 adults were involved in the study, covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It follows research from Public Health England that showed children under three have an average of three decayed teeth due to the preventable disease.
Dr John Milne, Chair of the BDA's General Dental Practice Committee, said:
"This research is the starkest evidence of a systematic failure to invest in prevention. Governments past and present have been too inclined to view oral health as an 'optional extra', when it is fundamental to our health, wellbeing and confidence.
"The link between income and oral health is stubborn and starts in childhood. And parents, teachers, healthcare workers and policy makers need to work in partnership to ensure the necessary building blocks are in place from the start of life.
"The tools to break this pattern are neither new nor expensive. Education, fluoridation and sugar controls can all make a difference, and we must ensure dentists have contracts in place that recognise and reward work on prevention."
"We shouldn't kid ourselves that today's research reflects the failure of post-war governments. In 2014 we seeing three-year-olds with missing and decayed teeth. And until government steps up we will continue condemning large swathes or the population to pain, discomfort and expensive and avoidable procedures."
Notes to Editors
1. The British Dental Association (BDA) is the professional association and trade union for dentists in the UK. It represents dentists working in general practice, in community and hospital settings, in academia and research, and in the armed forces, and includes dental students. The BDA promotes members' interests, advances the science, arts and ethics of dentistry, and contributes towards improving the nation's oral health.
2. For further information, please contact the BDA's media team on 0207 563 4145/46 or visit http://www.bda.org/news-centre. You can also follow news from the BDA on Twitter: http://twitter.com/theBDA.