Spotlight on UK’s dental health on World Oral Health Day

The findings of a major report on the State of Oral Health in Europe are to be debated today World Oral Health Day (12 September) in the UK parliament.

MPs and dental experts will gather at the Smiling Britain roundtable convened by Wrigley and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare to discuss the report, issued by The Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe.

The State of Oral Health report takes a comprehensive look at Europe’s dental health. Its findings show that, although there has been significant improvement over the last decade, more needs to be done to improve oral health and encourage good oral hygiene habits. Oral disease remains a significant public health burden, particularly in economically challenged areas. It is also an increasing economic burden; public spending on the treatment of oral disease across the EU is soon likely to exceed that of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Professor Ken Eaton, president of the European Association of Dental Public Health and chair of European Platform for Better Oral Health will lead the discussion on the report.

He will be joined by experts including Dr Nigel Carter, Chief Executive at British Dental Health Foundation and dental hygienist, Juliette Reeves, for a wide-ranging discussion aimed at identifying how the priorities the report  sets out can be applied by dental professionals in the UK.

To address the burden of oral disease, the report recommends that the following actions be considered by decision-makers across Europe:

·         Making a commitment to improving oral health as part of EU policies by 2020;

·         Addressing increasing oral health inequalities;

·         Encouraging good practice sharing;

·         Improving the data and knowledge base, bridging the research gap in oral health promotion and developing common methodologies in data collection processes;

·         Supporting the development of the dental workforce in Europe.

Professor Ken Eaton, president of the European Association of Dental Public Health and Chair of European Platform for Better Oral Health, who will present the findings of the report at the event, said: ‘Much needs to be done to improve oral health in Europe. I hope that the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe’s report will provide a catalyst for change. Apart from oral cancer, poor oral health rarely kills people directly.  However, it causes a very significant deterioration in quality of life for millions of people, which is tragic as prevention of oral diseases is relatively simple.’

Louisa Rowntree, Communications Manager for the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme said: ‘Wrigley and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare are committed to promoting good oral care across the UK. This important research by the Platform for Better Oral Health in Europe underlines that, despite the progress that has been made, there is still much that we could be doing to improve our oral health.’

Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive at British Dental Health Foundation, who will join the event to discuss how the report findings could be applied practically to the UK, said: ‘Dental disease is totally preventable and yet still affects the majority of the UK population either through dental decay or gum disease.  Mouth cancer is also the faster growing cancer in the UK having increased by 48% in the last 12 years.

‘The present piloting of a new contract for NHS dentistry for the first time will recognise the important role of prevention and not just treatment of established disease.  It is important that this initiative remains a priority for government in these economic times.  Water fluoridation has a key role to play in reducing inequalities and the recently announced initiative on locally organised consultations on the extension of fluoridation is to be welcomed.’

Dental hygienist and DH&T editorial board member, Juliette Reeves, who will speak at the event about the oral hygiene elements of the report and the application of the findings, said: ‘Although we have made significant improvement over the last decade in the caries rate among children in the EU and UK, this report highlights that oral disease still remains a significant public health burden, particularly in socio-economic deprived groups. With increasing prevalence rates of periodontal disease and oral cancer, introducing preventive initiatives, establishing oral hygiene routines and increasing access to services is paramount in these times of economic austerity.’

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