Fluoride Action Network

East Lancashire: ‘End the scandal of our children’s rotten teeth’

Source: Lancashire Telegraph | November 3rd, 2017 | By Bill Jacobs, Local Government Reporter
Location: United Kingdom, England

CHILDREN from Blackburn with Darwen have the worst teeth in the country and those of five-year-olds in Burnley, Hyndburn, and Pendle are almost as bad.

Across the four boroughs scarcely half make it to primary school without fillings or any removed.

New figures show the four council areas have very poor figures for dental health at five.

The problem is highlighted in a new report which identifies a North-South divide on the issue and a consistent gap between the teeth of the rich and poor in England.

Burnley MP and shadow health minister Julie Cooper called for action on the long-standing ‘scandal’ of the East Lancashire children’s poor dental health, including putting extra fluoride in local water supplies.

Her Blackburn Labour colleague Kate Hollern said: “The government must train more NHS dentists and introduce a public health campaign promoting oral health, raising awareness and supporting parents to care for their children’s teeth throughout their childhood.”

The latest figures for 2014/2015 show that just 43.9 per cent children in Blackburn with Darwen make it the age of five without suffering from tooth decay, fillings or missing teeth against a national average of 75.2 per cent and a North-West figure of 66.6.

The figures for Burnley is 57.4 per cent, Hyndburn 56.5, and Pendle 56.7.

In Rossendale 66.7 per cent of children aged five have undamaged teeth, in Ribble Valley 80.1 and Chorley 83.7.

In 1995, figures obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph showed five-year-olds in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale were 170th in a national league table of the then 175 health districts with its Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley equivalent three places higher at 167.

The lack of extra fluoride in Lancashire water supplies, which is still the case, was blamed as one of the causes.

Yesterday’s report ‘Root Causes; quality and inequality in dental health’ published by The Nuffield Trust confirms that despite more than 20 years of concern Blackburn with Darwen still has the worst children’s teeth in England.

It says: “Dental health has been steadily improving.

“However, closer examination reveals variation between different parts of the country and socioeconomic groups.

“Dental health is better in the south and east of England, and poorer in the north of England.

“For example, children in Blackburn are four times more likely to have missing, decayed or filled teeth than children in South Gloucestershire.

“These regional variations are partly explained by levels of deprivation and the impact this has on dental health.”

Mrs Cooper said: “It is scandal that children’s teeth in parts of East Lancashire remain among the worst in the country after more than 20 years of concern.

“The situation in Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn and Pendle is outrageous and a dental health emergency.

“We need a strategy to improve access to NHS dentists and tackle children’s diet and oral health which includes looking at the fluoridation of water in Lancashire.”

Mrs Hollern said: “I share the concerns about the variation in standards of dental health across the UK. As with many aspects of society there is a clear north/south divide.

“The government needs to act now.”

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson said: “While these figures are concerning children’s oral health is in fact better than it has been for years.

“The most recent data shows 75 per cent of five-year-old children in England are now decay-free but it clearly leaves 25 who are not.

“Improving children’s oral health is a priority for the Government.”

Mel Catleugh, dental consultant at Public Health England North-West said: “Water fluoridation is one of a range of evidence-based measures local authorities can consider to improve the oral health and reduce tooth decay.”

Dominic Harrison, Blackburn with Darwen’s director of public health, said: “Partners across Pennine Lancashire see this as a priority and recognise that dental health is linked to issues such as diabetes and obesity.

“We are working closely with NHS England to improve dental access as well as lobbying the government to tackle the amount of hidden sugar in food and drink.”

Junior Health Minster Steve Brine told Mrs Cooper in Parliament this week: “There are no quick fixes.

“Clearly more needs to be done to reduce the inequalities in oral health.”

One of many comments by “Disillusioned70“:

I don’t know quite where to start with this article. These figures are of no shock to me as I am a dental nurse. These figures are released after the funding for the local oral health team was cut by the local authority. I don’t blame the LA as they are having their money from government cut so much that sadly services like this are the first to go. This team of dental nurses used to visit schools across East Lancs giving important advice, toothbrushes and toothpaste under the smile for life programme to school children. Some of these children don’t have the luxury of a new toothbrush and sadly will now be missing out. And before people get on high horses with the I look after my children’s teeth I shouldn’t t be paying for other kids to have toothbrushes, it’s not the children’s fault and they are the ones who are suffering and costing the state more in the long run by having to have general anaesthetic in hospitals. The problem is also not with a lack of dentists as many practices are accepting new NHS patients. As well as the local oral health team having funding cut more dental tenders are being lost by local NHS trusts as they are not sustainable financially, resulting in more loss of NHS trust run services across East Lancs with registered dental nurses being made redundant by NHS trusts.
One of the problem lies still in education of parents, carers and children themselves when they reach a certain age.
Many are still unaware of hidden sugars in food and think that no added sugar is a good thing.
Anyway I digress this isn’t a lecture on sugar, this is to point out that funding is again being cut from the most vulnerable areas. The other white elephant in the room is the dental contract which was enforced in 2006 which forced a lot of dentists to go private as they knew the new contract was not fit for purpose. I know personally practices who were nhs through and through who took the hard decision to go private only because of this change. If anyone is interested in further info on the said contract have a look at https://bda.org/contractreform

*Original article online at http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/darwen/15638082.__39_End_the_scandal_of_our_children__39_s_rotten_teeth__39_/