Children’s oral health in England is ‘national disgrace’, says head of royal college

Children’s oral health in England is 'national disgrace', says head of royal college

The poor state of children’s oral health highlights the widening inequalities in child health across England.

This is according to the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Speaking to the The BMJ, Camilla Kingdom said health staff are seeing health inequalities widen as the cost of living crisis takes its toll on the health of children.

‘National disgrace’

‘There are lots of examples. One that we often forget about is oral health and the state of children’s teeth, which is actually a national disgrace,’ she said.

She argued that when households are struggling to feed their families, toothbrushes and toothpaste can become a ‘luxury item’.

‘It is simple but very visible, alarming evidence of how [the cost of living crisis] is impacting children’s health.’

Tooth decay is the most common reason for hospital admissions in England among five to nine year olds.

In 2020/2021, the estimated costs of hospital admissions in 0 to 19 year olds for all tooth extractions was £21.8 million. For extractions due to tooth decay, it was £13.8 million.

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Reducing inequalities

In a report published in 2021, a statement from the UK chief medical officers said there is an ‘entrenched inequality’ when it comes to tooth decay.

They pushed for the wider introduction of water fluoridation as a way of closing the gap.

‘There is evidence that water fluoridation can help narrow differences in dental health between more and less deprived communities with people living in fluoridated areas suffering less tooth decay compared to those living in non-fluoridated areas’.

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