Dental Care

Dental Health Linked to Social Class

According to recent expert research published in the British Dental Journal almost 30,000 children each year go to hospital to have their teeth extracted or treated for decay.

The research was carried out by Prof David Moles of Plymouth’s Peninsula Dental School. The second author of the study was Dr Paul Ashley who is head of Paediatric Dentistry at University College London’s Eastman Dental Institute.

Scientific researchers who have analysed the data described it as “worrying” that the number of 17 year olds and under who have been admitted to hospital for dental treatment has experienced a marked growth since the late 1990’s.

A major public health issue has been highlighted by the findings of the research published in the British Dental Journal. It was discovered that children from poorer areas were twice as likely to require dental treatment as those from more affluent areas and families.

This shocking revelation has lead to derision of the current Labour government’s policy relating to NHS dentistry. There have also been calls from some quarters for the introduction of the much-debated topic of compulsory water fluoridation.

One of the leading critics of the Labour Government’s NHS Dentistry policy has been the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb. Mr Lamb has criticised what he describes as the “appalling lack of access” for most families to NHS dentists and he has called for a “radical overhaul” of the present NHS dental care system.

In an interview held on BBC Radio 5Live Norman Lamb went on record as saying: “One of the possible causes [of poor child dental health] is that children are not going to the dentist enough. We hear constantly about problems in accessing NHS dentists. It really demonstrates a failure of government policy that the situation is getting worse, not better.”

The British Dental Journal’s data stated that for under 17 year old children between 1997 and 2006 there were well over half a million courses of dental treatment in NHS hospitals.

80% of the half a million children attending hospital had teeth extracted – in two thirds of these cases the extractions were due to tooth decay. The most common age group that needed teeth to be extracted was that of 5 year olds.

Peter Bateman went on to say:

“Water fluoridation, as the long-standing scheme in the West Midlands illustrates has great potential to address this divide.”

Dr Paul Ashley added:

“Two aspects of the study are particularly worrying – the rise in the number of general anaesthetics being given to children, and the widening gulf in dental health between social classes.”

A Department of Health spokesperson has alleged that Prof David Moles’ and Dr Paul Ashley’s findings were skewed due to changes made in 2001 which meant that anaesthesia was administered in hospitals rather than at dental surgeries. The change in 2001 was made for safety reasons as it was ruled that a general anaesthetic could be fatal to children.

This article is free to republish provided the authors resource box below remains intact.

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