Dental Survey of English 3-year-olds reveals “stark inequalities” says Oral Health Foundation
A Public Health England dental survey of three-year-olds in England published on 30th March 2021 has revealed stark oral health inequalities says leading oral health charity the Oral Health Foundation. It urges community water fluoridation as the key to bridging the gap and calls on the government to act.
The report investigated nearly 20,000 three-year-olds from across England and found more than one-in-ten 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%) compared to 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 more likely to experience tooth decay (16.6%) compared to those living in the least deprived areas (5.9%).
Dr Ben Atkins concludes that, while 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 adds: “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 about the importance of good oral health, as well as the benefits of fluoride, visit the Oral Health Foundation’s website www.dentalhealth.org.
Those requiring dental advice can call the charity’s 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.
1. Public Health England, Oral health survey of 3-year-old children 2020 (released March 2021), available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/oral-health-survey-of-3-year-old-children-2020