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Experts warn of regional discrepancies in children’s dental health


According to dental experts there are huge regional discrepancies in the health of children’s teeth up and down the country. Sandra White, director of dental public health at Public Health England, spoke at a health select committee hearing into children’s oral health. She told the committee that the most deprived areas of the country have a greater percentage of dental decay in five-year-olds than the least deprived areas.

Dr White also said that children who develop decay when they still have their milk teeth are more likely to show signs of decay when their adult teeth come through. She added that it’s important to teach children how to effectively clean their teeth while they are young, so that they don’t have to get dental treatment in later life.

Chief dental officer for England, Barry Cockcroft, said that despite the improvement in child oral health over the past 50 years there is still a strong link between deprivation and poor dental hygiene. He told the hearing that children in deprived areas were only accessing treatment after they had developed symptoms, rather than receiving preventative care. Finally he said ‘I think we shouldn’t see this purely as a dental issue, this is a societal issue that we need to address across a broad front.’

Teeside children have some of the worst teeth in England


Shocking new figures have revealed that children in Teeside have some of the poorest records of dental health in the country. Figures released by Health and Social Care Information Centre show that the number of fillings and root canal treatments provided to children in the area are among the highest in the country, with children in Stockton, Middlesbrough coming off worst – where a child has a filling every seven minutes.

Kamini Shah, consultant in dental public health with Public Health England in the North East, said that the poor state of dental health in the Teeside area is a reflection of ‘high levels of deprivation’ and she urged parents to teach their children good hygiene habits whilst cutting down on sugary snacks, including fizzy drinks.

Children in Stockton are more than twice as likely to have had teeth removed than in England overall and the council are trying to do something about it by educating parents in the Stockton Borough on how to prevent decay and encourage good oral hygiene. A universal programme for fluoride toothpaste and toothbrushes for nursery-age children has also been rolled out recently, in an effort to get children to look after their teeth from an early age.

Stockton dentist Paran Nithiananthan said that ‘the most important thing is diet’ and added that ‘tooth decay is preventable… A lot of it comes from education but it’s really the parents and carers that have the important responsibility.’

More than one in four children in Sheffield has tooth decay


Figures released by Public Health England have shown that more than a quarter of five-year-olds in Sheffield have tooth decay. Although the figure has dropped from 40.7% to 29.5% over the past five years, health experts warn that there is ‘still work to be done’.

Sheffield consultant in dental public health Kate Jones said that programmes targeting the dental health of youngsters were having a gradual impact on rates of decay but added that there was still some way to go before the levels could be seen as manageable. The figures were collected last year as part of the second national survey to assess the dental health of five-year-olds in the country; numbers also revealed the average number of decaying teeth found in Sheffield children’s mouths has dropped to 1.3, compared to 1.66 back in 2008. The average across Yorkshire is 33%, with the national average standing at just under 28%.

Ms Jones said that the reduction in decay was ‘very good news’ but added that ‘The Sheffield figure is an average and across the city there remain wide inequalities. There is still work to be done by the council to address these inequalities. Oral Health Action teams in several areas of the city have been working with Sheffield residents, community groups, schools and nurseries, pharmacies and health professionals to improve dental health and help people find a dentist.’

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