Local authorities should improve oral health services and signposting to available dental services, the Oral Health Foundation has said.
The calls come after NICE published its Oral health promotion in the community document, which gives local authorities guidance on how to identify the oral health needs of communities and address inequalities.
‘We have to let people who are in need of help know that help is available for them,’ Dr Ben Atkins, trustee of the Oral Health Foundation, said.
‘One of the first steps towards this is for local authorities to ensure they understand the needs of their communities when it comes to oral health and put in place the necessary interventions to address any problems.
‘Some local authorities already run excellent and effective oral health services.
‘But, there are still some regions in the UK where oral health promotion is not treated with the priority that it deserves and as a result many people feel disillusioned with the help they can get.
‘Half of all adults are failing to visit the dentist each year, and the figures are even lower for children, this is something that we have to change through positive action.
‘Without this we are seriously concerned that oral health inequalities will continue to grow across the country.’
Oral health as part of overall health
The NICE document also states that oral health should be included as part of overall health and care plans.
Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for England, has recently stated that she wants to ‘put the mouth back in the body’ by ensuring oral health is considered an integral part of overall health.
Oral health promotion in the community also suggests local authorities include oral health improvement programmes in primary schools in areas where children and young people are experiencing poor oral health.
‘By addressing these areas local authorities can really make a statement about how serious they are taking oral health in their communities.
‘In targeting early years’ services and schools they are also helping to improve the future of oral health for the public.
‘Learning good oral health behaviour at a young age is proven to reduce the risk of oral health problems in later life.
‘As part of this, one area they should address is to ensure healthy food and drink options are displayed prominently in local authority and NHS venues, including early years services and schools.’
The full NICE guidance can be found at: www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs139/resources/oral-health-promotion-in-the-community-75545427440581.