New research released this week indicates children’s dental health in Wales suffers as a result of their deprived background.
The study revealed only half of the Welsh population has access to an NHS dentist.
It also showed more than three quarters of children under the age of 15 in the least deprived areas of Wales paid a visit to their NHS dentist compared to only 62% in the most deprived areas, pointing to a clear trend in attendance related to income deprivation.
While the results did not show any trends in adults, the overall level of dental health in Wales has raised concerns within the profession.
Dentists in Wales have already called on the Welsh Assembly to address the growing inequalities that exist, particularly at a time of increased financial constraint.
The calls come after the Adult Dental Health Survey, released in December last year, showed a significant gap between standards of oral health in Wales, Northern Ireland and England; England and Northern Ireland had lower rates of decay and the number of people without any natural teeth was much higher in Wales.
In Wales, 10% of the survey participants had no natural teeth; this was considerably higher than in England, where the figure was 6%.
Chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, believes the study shows more urgent action is required.
Dr Carter said: ‘Although Wales has frozen its dental prices for the forthcoming year, the notion that people aren’t visiting their dentist due to the fees incurred is having a detrimental impact on the overall oral health of the nation. It is particularly alarming to see children under the age of 15 suffering with poor oral health.’
With the Welsh Assembly yet to discuss plans to fluoridate their water supply, Dr Carter thinks this could significantly improve the oral health across the country.
‘Fluoridation is the most important single measure that the UK Government and Welsh Assembly can take to bring a substantial change in the nation’s dental health.
‘The Foundation is calling for the Assembly to facilitate the rapid introduction of fluoride into the nation’s water supplies, particularly in areas of social and economic deprivation.’
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• March 11, 2011: Clinical Dental Report, England and Wales: Quarter 3 and Quarter 4, 2008/09 – Experimental Statistics
• March 11, 2011: Annex 1 Methodology & Analysis (for the above report)