Tackle ‘poor and poor oral health’ link, says BDA

A dental professor is calling on the government to address the link between social deprivation and poor oral health.

Commenting on the preliminary findings from the 2009 Adult Dental Health Survey (ADHS) published last week, Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific officer with the British Dental Association (BDA), says: ‘Depressingly, this report confirms what we know about the strong link between social deprivation and poor oral health. Addressing this must be a priority for the UK’s governments.’

The BDA has generally given a positive reception to the continuing improvements seen in adults’ oral health.

The report shows that adults are retaining at least some of their natural teeth later into life.

Additionally, the report found that 86% of adults had 21 or more natural teeth.

In 1978, this was the case for only 74%.

Professor Walmsley adds: ‘This survey confirms that the condition of people’s teeth overall has got much better since this survey was first carried out. Fluoride toothpaste, greater awareness of the importance of a healthy diet and regular visits to the dentist have all undoubtedly contributed to the better dental health we see in adults today.

‘While the growing number of patients retaining more of their teeth into later life is, of course, excellent news, this improvement brings its own challenges. The way that teeth are cared for will need to evolve to ensure that these challenges are met.’

The report also confirms the relationship between low socio-economic status and poorer oral health.

A total of 11,380 adults were interviewed for the survey, and 6,469 adults were examined, making this the largest ever epidemiological survey of adult dental health in the UK.

The study, which gives a snapshot of adults’ teeth across England, Northern Ireland and Wales, shows that a greater percentage of adults in Wales have poor dental health compared to their counterparts in England.

The survey – commissioned by The NHS Information Centre – was carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) working in partnership the National Centre for Social Research and a team of academics from the Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Newcastle and University College London.

The publication contains preliminary findings from the survey, which was carried out between October 2009 and April 2010.

A series of more detailed reports are due to be published in March 2011.

The report can be accessed at www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/dentalsurvey09.

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