The British Dental Health Foundation is leading calls for the health secretary Jeremy Hunt to invest in dentistry to aid in his bid to tackle four of the five big killers in England.
The mortality call to action outlines secretary Hunt’s ambition to save 30,000 avoidable deaths from the five major causes – cancer, heart, stroke respiratory and liver disease – and to make England among the best in Europe.
With these conditions currently killing more than 150,000 people under 75 every year, and with cardiovascular disease (CVD) representing about 30% of all deaths in 2011, taking action on these five big killers will have a major impact in saving more lives.
The announcement comes as The Lancet publishes a major report into the UK’s health performance, which shows that the UK is still a long way behind its global counterparts.
Poor oral health has been linked to four of the five major killers – cancer, heart problems, strokes and respiratory problems – and investing in dentistry could potentially save millions of pounds treating these diseases, enabling the money to be ploughed back into the NHS.
This has been emphasised after new research suggests almost £3,000 could be saved on treating heart disease and strokes if people were treated for gum disease.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, urges the public to take notice of these claims and reiterates the importance of looking after their mouths.
Dr Carter said: ‘The research sends a clear message that the risks caused by poor oral health should not be overlooked or considered less important when compared to others factors, particularly financial savings. Those figures give the clearest indication yet the cost of prevention far outweighs the costs involved with restorative and emergency care. You may think you are being financially prudent but reality is the cost of neglecting your oral health is even higher. That’s exactly what this study has found.
‘Obesity, alcohol abuse, poor diet and smoking are generally well-known risk factors which can cause heart disease and strokes. Less well-known are the risks caused by gum disease, even though new causal links are being made with alarming frequency.
‘The good news is that poor oral health is nearly always preventable and it is important that people make caring for their teeth a top priority. Regular visits to the dentist, as often as they recommend, is really important to give the dentist a chance to assess your oral health and, if necessary, give your teeth a scale and polish.’
He added: ‘This cannot be done in isolation. A simple routine of brushing teeth, twice a day for two minutes using a fluoride toothpaste, will help to remove plaque – the cause of gum disease. It is also important to clean in between teeth using interdental brushes or floss.’