A Sheffield child is more likely to have tooth decay if they live in a poorer part of the city, according to a new report.
Latest figures show 31 per cent of the city’s five-year-olds had tooth decay affecting ‘three or four’ teeth.
Sheffield has a higher amount of tooth decay in this category than Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster and is six per cent above the national average. One Sheffield dentists called the figure ‘shocking’ and said the education message needed to be stronger to stop early onset dental problems in children. A report compiled by Sheffield Council, NHS England, Public Health England, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and University of Sheffield School of Dentistry said the oral health of people in Sheffield is ‘improving’ but ‘inequalities in oral health remain and there is still work to be done’. The report seen by councillors said children living in the most deprived areas of the city had average tooth decay levels that were four times higher than those living in the least deprived areas.
Figures show in the Burngreave and City wards, between 50 and 60 per cent of children aged five have suffered from tooth decay. West Ecclesfield, Shiregreen & Brightside and Southey scored between 40 and 50 per cent in the same category.
Dore & Totley, Crookes & Crosspool and Fulwood scored the lowest. Between zero and 10 per cent of children aged five living in these wards suffered from tooth decay. The report also said around 1,000 children admitted annually to Sheffield Children’s hospital children for general anesthetics for the management of dental disease.
Dr Nigel Rosenbaum at One80Dental on Baslow Road, Totley, said: “Through general experience and what I hear from colleagues, I’m not shocked it’s that high but the inequality and gulf is a shocking figure, no doubt about it. “There is a huge biological and financial cost to the city and the country. It’s a crying shame that we have got so many kids going under general anaesthetic to have teeth removed.
“Schools could be doing a lot more in early years to get the message across – this shouldn’t be about if people live in a more affluent area or not, teeth are immune to poverty, but dissolved by sugar. “Parents may also think that if their child has baby teeth removed then it’s okay because adult teeth grow back in their place – this should not be the mindset.
“Giving babies water in bottles instead of syrup-type drinks and cutting sugary drinks before bedtime could go a long way in helping this problem. Brushing teeth with a Fluoride toothpaste is obviously recommended and seeing a dentist, unfortunately many children do not get to see one. This service is free for them and is to be encouraged.” The report said: “Since 2008, the prevalence and severity of tooth decay in five-year-old school children has decreased. However there is still work to be done to maintain these improvements and reduce the inequalities in children living in the most deprived areas of the city. “Although Sheffield has seen an overall improvement in oral health, many people still experience unacceptable levels of disease. Poor oral health will only be addressed if it is approached in the context of good oral health being vital for general health and wellbeing.”
Sheffield Council has said it is tackling the problem with its Oral Health Improvement Strategy 2014-2017.
The strategy was developed by the Council, Public Health England, the local NHS, dentists and Healthwatch.
It focuses on improving exposure to fluoride, reducing exposure to sugars and tobacco.
The report said there have been ‘improvements in children’s oral health in Sheffield’ during the period of this strategy.
Progress was measured by the average number of decayed, missing and filled teeth in five-year-old children.
All targets were said to be met and the he average number of decayed, missing and filled teeth in five-year-old children reduced to 1.1, the proportion of children with tooth decay reduced to 31 per cent – down from 36 per cent.
Over 6,200 tooth brushing packs are given out annually to school pupils and there are plans to maintain and expand numbers.
The council is said to be looking into water fluoridation. A review is set to be carried out on further detailed examination of tooth decay trends and feasibility.
The costs of a water fluoridation scheme in Sheffield has been estimated to be in the region of £1m for capital costs and up to £220,000 in revenue costs per year.
Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families said “These figures show the high levels of tooth decay in children in certain parts of the city, which is something preventable through good oral health and reducing the intake of sugary food and drink. It is something we take very seriously.
“There is no doubt that getting all children into a good tooth brushing routine can prevent decay and improve oral health. We’re working to improve this in Sheffield by providing information and help for all parents and carers. We’ve recently extended our tooth brushing clubs to 40 more schools and nurseries across the city, introducing more clubs in the areas with the highest levels of dental decay.
“We know that high rates of tooth decay in certain areas are mirrored by the high rates of child poverty in those areas as well.
“The most important thing I’d ask parents to do is brush their children’s teeth twice a day, limit sugary food and drinks and take their children to the dentist regularly from an early age. These things really make a difference.
“We will continue to call on the Government to get food manufacturers to cut the use of sugar in their products. We know that sugar is put into all sorts of food including savoury stuff and so I’d encourage everyone to look at the labels and see how much sugar is in products even the ones you think might be healthy such as yoghurts and juices.”