Children living in Scotland’s most deprived areas are twice as likely to suffer from tooth decay as affluent youngsters, according to a report.
The National Dental Inspection Programme studied primary seven children across Scotland in 2004/05.
It found that 64% of children in the poorest areas had decaying teeth by the end of primary school, compared to 30% of those from wealthier backgrounds.
But the report identified progress on reducing child tooth decay by 2010.
The NDIP report found there was a “strong association” between social deprivation and dental disease.
The Scottish National Party called for a new dental health campaign to target deprived areas, but the Scottish Executive said it had invested heavily in projects in poor areas.
Ministers also said that nearly half of Scotland’s health boards have reached an executive target that 60% of primary seven pupils should show no sign of decay in their adult teeth by 2010.
The report said Scotland was the only country to set a dental target for primary seven children.
It also said the majority of tooth decay was concentrated in the first permanent molars, which come into the mouth at approximately six years of age.
This highlighted, the report said, the need to ensure that good oral hygiene and dental disease prevention in children should begin at an early age.
One of the report’s authors, Martyn Merrett, a consultant in dental public health, said he was encouraged by the findings.
“As a benchmark, it already shows the positive position achieved by half of the NHS boards in relation to one of the dental targets set by the Scottish Executive,” he said.
“However, it also shows that a large amount of dental disease is concentrated in a small number of children and we need to concentrate our efforts to help improve their dental health.”
Health boards across Scotland were “on track” to meet the 2010 tooth decay target, he added.
Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said the figures were “very encouraging” and that improving children’s oral health was a priority.
“We have introduced the biggest nursery tooth-brushing scheme in Europe,” said the minister.
“We are providing every child under 12 months with free toothpaste and toothbrushes. We are providing free fruit and water to primary one and primary two children.”
Scots Tory health spokeswoman Nanette Milne said the figures were a “progression”, but added: “There is nothing from the executive to encourage dentists who have left the health service to come back, nor to prevent those thinking of moving out to reconsider and stay.”
The dental inspection programme is a joint venture involving Scotland’s health boards, the executive and the Dental Health Services Research Unit in Dundee.
*Original article online at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/5196770.stm
*Note from FAN:
For a further understanding of the Scottish Childsmile program, which was created because of the Scottish Executive’s decision not to fluoridate, go to http://fluoridealert.org/content/childsmile/