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Oral health inequalities worsen as overall oral health improves in Scotland

By Dental Tribune UK
November 28, 2018

EDINBURGH, UK: The gap in dental caries rates between children living in the least and most deprived areas of Scotland is growing, according to the National Dental Inspection Programme 2018 report from NHS Scotland.

A survey of 16,814 pupils in their first year of primary school found that 86 per cent of those children in Scotland’s least deprived areas had no obvious signs of decayed, missing or filled primary teeth. For those from the most deprived areas, this figure was 56 per cent.

Furthermore, the average number of decayed, missing or filled primary teeth for children in the least deprived areas was 0.45 per child, compared with 1.92 for those from the poorest places.

In promising news, however, the overall oral health of Scottish children has improved, with 71 per cent showing no obvious signs of caries. This compares favourably to the 69 per cent recorded in the previous year’s report, and represents a dramatic increase from the 38 per cent that was reported in 1994.

In its response, the British Dental Association (BDA) welcomed the extension of the Scottish government’s Childsmile—the national oral health improvement programme for children in Scotland—but recommended that a greater focus on prevention is necessary to reduce these oral health inequalities.

“Dentists have applauded the progress secured through Childsmile, but this data is a stark reminder that the Scottish government cannot rest on its laurels,” said Dr Robert Donald, Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Council. “Scotland’s oral health gap had shown signs of closing, and we must ensure hard-won progress is not undone. Ministers now need to go further and faster to tackle the scandal of these deep and persistent health inequalities.”

Commenting on the report findings, a spokesperson for the Scottish government said: “We want to see these positive trends continue by tackling health inequalities in children. This is why children living in our most deprived areas are entitled to receive fluoride varnish applications at nursery or school.”

“We have also extended the Childsmile programme to all nursery and primary one and two children in the most deprived communities across Scotland,” she added.

The National Dental Inspection Programme 2018 report was published on 23 October and is available here.

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