Figures reveal Barrow and South Lakeland are the worst areas in the country for tooth decay
CHILDREN in Barrow and South Lakeland have the worst rates of tooth decay in the country.
Figures from the Department of Health have revealed that the rate of children’s tooth decay in both areas sits right at the bottom of national tables.
The average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth in 12-year-olds was 1.6, compared with a national average of 0.8 per cent.
Other areas of Cumbria are level with, or below, the national average.
In Copeland, the average is 0.7 per cent, in Eden, the rate is 0.8 per cent and it is 0.6 per cent for children in Allerdale.
The data was collected during 2008 and 2009, but was only released this month following the publication of health profiles for boroughs across the country.
Oral and public health say the problem is not specific to 12-year-olds, but all children, although rates of decay are slightly better for five-year-olds.
They have linked tooth decay to high levels of deprivation in the area.
Eric Rooney, consultant in dental public health for primary care trust NHS Cumbria, said: “There is an association between living in deprived areas and poor oral and dental health, where levels of healthy eating and smoking are all below average. That might be in adults, but it is all linked.
“There are issues about the amount of money people have to be able to have a reasonable diet. There are sometimes barriers.
“Tooth decay is caused by eating lots of foods with sugar in them, or a high-sugar diet with a lot of snacking in between meals, not having regular meal times.
“Once people get decay, all we can do is repair it, so we need to ensure we are getting to children before decay starts by encouraging healthy eating.
“Some part of it is education, but just because you know something is the right thing to do, it doesn’t mean you do it. Everyone knows smoking is bad for you but people still do it.”
Mr Rooney said that despite the figures, the problem in the area is not getting worse year-on-year.
He said that he is working with a number of dental practices in Barrow and Ulverston to deliver a preventative programme called Smile 4 Life.
He said: “We’re targeting nurseries and children’s centres, making sure the centres themselves don’t have biscuits and cakes at snack time, ensuring children can get access to preventative care, encouraging them to brush with a fluoride toothpaste and have a healthy diet.”