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UK children score relatively low on the DMF index

Posted on January 27, 2017 at 9:05 AM

LONDON, UK: Compared with other countries in Europe, UK children score relatively low on the DMF index. Despite significant improvements in the state of oral health since the early 1990s, however, a large gap exists between children of different economic backgrounds, a new national health report has indicated. The 42-page paper published this week by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in London on the state of health in children in all four countries found that 5-year-olds living in the most deprived areas of England, Northern Ireland and Wales are three times more likely to suffer severe tooth decay than those residing in the most affluent areas. Regarding the number of 5-year-olds with no obvious signs of tooth decay, England and Scotland had the largest proportion (70 in 100 children), while Northern Ireland and Wales lagged behind, with 60 and 59 in 100 children, respectively. Nevertheless, children in Northern Ireland showed the most noticeable oral health improvement since 2003, together with Scotland, the report stated. Caries remains the single most common reason that children aged 5–9 require admission to hospital, in many cases needing general anaesthetic for tooth exaction, it also said. The figures for the report were derived from the Children’s Dental Health Survey for England, Northern Ireland and Wales and the National Dental Inspection Programme for Scotland. Despite the noticeable improvement in the oral health of children, it recommended the implementation and evaluation of national oral health programmes for children and young people across the country, building on existing initiatives, including Childsmile and Designed to Smile. It also called for improving access to dental check-ups as soon as the first tooth erupts and for water fluoridation in areas where there is high tooth decay. Another key factor for the eradication of tooth decay, according to the report, is the prevention of children consuming high-sugar food, particularly drinks, through education and national initiatives to reduce sugar in children’s food. “We support all the recommendations contained in the report, the most important from the point of view of our patients is for universal early years public health services to be prioritised with targeted help for children and families experiencing poverty,” commented media spokesperson of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry and paediatric dentistry consultant Dr Claire Stevens, in Westminster yesterday. “I trust that, as intended, the report will be a springboard for more campaigning and more change, especially in relation to early intervention and prevention in children’s oral health.” Looking at a comprehensive list of 18 indicators, the RCPCH report identified some of the major issues concerning the health of UK children and recommended key actions for each government to improve the situation.

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