New dental survey of children highlights stark inequalities in England

A dental survey of three-year-olds in England has revealed stark oral health inequalities within England. The Oral Health Foundation, a leading oral health charity, believe community water fluoridation holds the key to bridging the gap and are calling on the government to act.

The report investigated nearly 20,000 three-year-olds from across England and found more than one-in-ten (10.7%) already have tooth decay.  On average, each child had three decayed teeth.

The survey also highlights regional differences amongst young children. Three-year-olds living in the Yorkshire and Humber are more than twice as likely to experience tooth decay (14.7%) than children living in the East of England (6.7%).

Dr Ben Atkins, President of the Oral Health Foundation, believes these statistics highlight an urgent need to address the oral health of children in this country and would like the government to do more.

Dr Atkins says: “These statistics are worrying indeed, especially when looking at the stark regional differences. The last survey of this nature was carried out in 2013 and since then very little progress has been made. This stagnation is due to a lack of action and clear direction from government, both at a local and national level, when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in the UK.

“As a charity, we believe that community water fluoridation holds the key to improving the oral health of children up and down the country. Under new NHS reform plans announced earlier this year, the government pledged to take back control of community water fluoridation in order to make the process of implementing schemes both more efficient and less costly.

“We need to hold the government accountable for this and hope that in years to come we will see more and more community water fluoridation schemes.”

Fluoride has been researched extensively for decades now and has been found time and time again to be very effective in protecting teeth from decay and erosion. When added into the water supply studies have shown it can reduce tooth decay by up to 35%.

The charity believes water fluoridation would be especially effective for those living in more deprived areas where access to dental care may be limited.

The report also revealed that children living in the most deprived areas of the country were almost three times as likely to have experience of tooth decay (16.6%) as those living in the least deprived areas (5.9%).

Dr Ben Atkins concludes that, whilst we wait to see improvements made, everyone can take steps to better their oral health by following a strong oral health routine at home.

Dr Atkins says: “There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in this country. However, while we strive towards that goal, we would encourage everyone, including children,  to brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day.  This, along with cleaning in between your teeth daily, can set you and your children up with a healthy smile for life.”

For more information on the importance of good oral health, as well as the benefits of fluoride, visit the Oral Health Foundation’s website at www.dentalhealth.org.  Furthermore, if anyone requires dental advice then they can contact our Dental Helpline on 01788 539780. The Helpline is staffed by trained dental professionals and is open from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Calls are charged at your standard network rate.

New report claims millions of Brits are at increased risk of tooth decay

More than 45 million British adults are at an increased risk of tooth decay, according to a new report.1 Figures collected by the Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive show that more than four-in-five (84%) of all adults in the UK fall into groups that put them at higher risk of the disease.1

The research found that one-in-five (21%) Brits have ‘moderate-to-high’ sugar diets, have not visited a dentist in the last two years (21%), or do not brush their teeth twice a day (19%) – all of which increase a person’s chances of developing tooth decay. 1

Tooth decay can lead to expensive fillings, root canal treatment or a person needing to have a tooth extraction.

The latest data from NHS Digital shows there are 9.7 million band two treatments in England a year. These include fillings, root canal work and extractions.2

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation says tooth decay can have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life and more must be done to reduce the number of people affected by the disease.

Dr Carter says: “Tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease in the UK, yet it is entirely preventable. Anybody can suffer from tooth decay but there are a few things that can increase the risk.

“Tooth decay is caused by poor oral hygiene, as well as eating or drinking too much sugar too often. It is also linked with not having regular dental check-ups.

“Those on medications containing sugar or that cause dry mouth can also put a person at greater risk. We also know that diabetics and orthodontic patients are also more likely to have tooth decay. Together these makes up a significant proportion of the population.

“In its early stages, tooth decay can cause mild pain, but in extreme cases it can have a debilitating impact on a person’s life. For a better quality of life, it is critical to know how identify tooth decay in the early stages or prevent it from happening at all.”

Toothache and tooth sensitivity to sweet things are two of the most likely signs of tooth decay. Dark spots on the surfaces of the teeth and an unpleasant taste in the mouth are further signs to look out for.

“If anybody falls into one of the high-risk groups, or notices the early signs of tooth decay, they should book an appointment with their dental team for an assessment,” adds Dr Carter. “They will be able to help somebody lower their risk and offer a range of different options for preventing and treating tooth decay at home or while at work. One of which may be prescribing a high fluoride toothpaste.”

In the UK, around eight-in-ten adults have one or more teeth with decay, that are filled or have been pulled out due to decay. It is also extremely common in children, with more than one-in-five showing signs of tooth decay.3

To help more people identify their risk of tooth decay and how to spot the early warning signs, the charity has partnered with Colgate-Palmolive to launch a new educational campaign. The initiative, The Truth About Tooth Decay also gives advice for preventing the condition.

Scientific Affairs Project Manager at Colgate Emanuele Cotroneo, highlights the importance of preventing tooth decay.

Dr Cotroneo says: “The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing the teeth thoroughly last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a 1450ppm fluoride toothpaste. This should take around two minutes.

“When brushing, make sure the inner, outer and biting surfaces of the teeth are brushed carefully, and remember to brush along the gumline. Using ‘interdental’ brushes, or dental floss or tape, also helps to remove plaque and food from between the teeth. These are areas an ordinary toothbrush can’t reach. Daily use of a fluoride mouthwash in between brushing can also help.”

The Truth About Tooth Decay can be found at www.dentalhealth.org/thetruthabouttoothdecay.

For anybody looking for help or support with their oral health, the charity also has a Dental Helpline which offers free advice. You can call the Dental Helpline on 01788 539780 or email helpline@dentalhealth.org.

REFERENCES

  1. Oral Health Foundation and Colgate-Palmolive (2020) ‘Dental Caries Awareness Survey’, UK, Broadcast Revolution, Sample 2,008.
  2. NHS Digital (2020) ‘NHS Dental Statistics’, online at https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-dental-statistics/2019-20-annual-report#related-links, accessed on January 2020.
  3. Office for National Statistics (2009) ‘Adult Dental Health Survey’, online at https://www.ukdataservice.ac.uk/media/428503/osullivanadhs.pdf

Dental charity’s new website gives new opportunities to campaign for better oral health

The Oral Health Foundation has re-launched its website, with the focus on giving its supporters more opportunities to be actively involved in raising awareness of important causes.

The new online platform not only allows visitors to support all the charity’s campaigns and activities, such as National Smile Month (which is now underway for 2018), but also gives many more chance to participate in them.

The website (www.dentalhealth.org) also houses its own dedicated fundraising platform, which means that individuals and groups can create and share their own fundraising efforts and raise money for a series of charitable causes related to oral health.  

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, is excited by the possibilities brought by the new website.

Dr Carter said: “For more than 45 years’ we have worked with people and organisations who are passionate about raising awareness of oral health. This new website is all about providing these supporters with a platform which will make campaigning for oral health issues easier and more effective.

“Our new home also allows you to take a more in-depth look at who we are and what we do. Our charitable activities and the causes we support sometimes go under the radar, so we are delighted to be better able to share our successes with our supporters, the ones who make it all possible.”

As part of the launch, the charity’s patient-facing information, which was accessed by more than three million visitors last year, has been adapted to make it simpler for people to find what they need.

The Oral Health Foundation has also delivered a multi-language portal, which allows users to access all their oral health information across nine other world languages.

“It has been a remarkable project and one that we hope can have a real and tangible effect on the general public’s knowledge about oral health.

“More than 600,000 words have been translated by native-language speakers to ensure patients from as many countries as possible have access to trusted oral health information. These can also be used by health professionals for non-English speaking patients, with confidence and reassurance about the quality of information.”  

Visitors can also read about the latest oral health news, take interest in a series of new blogs and read the charity’s digital magazine.

The Oral Health Foundation’s Dental Helpline will also be available for those seeking answers to their oral health questions. The free advice line is staffed by fully trained and qualified dental experts and has been a useful tool for health professionals looking to point patients in the right direction in between appointments.

The charity is also excited to announce the launch of a brand-new online shop, which makes it easier for dental teams and oral health educators to find and purchase all the products they for oral health promotion.

Director of Educational Resources at the charity, Amanda Oakey, said: “Oral health promoters and professionals see such a wide range of people throughout the course of their careers and all these people require different needs.

“That’s why we spend a great deal of time producing high quality information and oral hygiene products to health professionals for their patients and local community.

“Our new online shop features our entire catalogue of more than 500 products and is incredible easy-to-use. I urge anybody involved in promoting oral health to go online and take a look.”

The redesigned website is live now at www.dentalhealth.org.