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Gap widens on kids' tooth decay

Inequalities plague children’s dental health, statistics show

New figures published last week (20 September 2013) highlight the chasm of inequality that divides children’s dental health, the British Dental Association (BDA) has warned.

The Public Health England report reveals that, while there has been a slight overall improvement in children’s oral health in recent years, significant variations persist between children in different areas of the country and from different backgrounds.

Across the whole of England, 27.9% of five year olds have experience of decay, according to the survey.

But that average figure hides wide regional disparities. In the south east, just over 21% had suffered decay, while in the north west the figure was nearly 35%.

A reduction in both the severity and prevalence of decay between this survey being carried out in 2012 and a previous study in 2008 was observed in all parts of the country except London, where decay experience has not changed.

Dr Christopher Allen, the chair of the BDA’s Dental Public Health Committee, said: 'This report highlights a welcome improvement to the overall oral health of five-year-old children across England, but it also reminds us of the deep chasm that exists between those with the best and worst oral health. That divide is based not just on geography, but also on deprivation.

'The fight to close this divide must continue. Crucial to its success are ensuring that a full dental public health workforce is available to advise on initiatives and funding made available to implement preventive programmes that can make a difference, and that children have access to dental care in all parts of the country.'
 
The National Dental Epidemiology Programme for England: oral health survey of five-year-old children 2012 is available on the Public Health England website.

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