A dental survey of three-year-olds in England has revealed drastic inequalities, according to the Oral Health Foundation (OHF), which believes that community water fluoridation is essential to bridging the gap and is calling on the government to act.
The Public Health England survey investigated nearly 20,000 three-year-olds from across the country and found that 10.7% of them already have tooth decay. On average, each child had three decayed teeth.
Also, the survey highlights regional differences. Three-year-olds living in the Yorkshire and Humber area are more than twice as likely to experience tooth decay (14.7%) as children living in the east of England (6.7%).
OHF president Dr. Ben Atkins believes these statistics highlight an urgent need to address the oral health of children in the country and would like the government to do more.
“These statistics are worrying indeed, especially when looking at the stark regional differences. The last survey of this nature was carried out in 2013, and since then very little progress has been made,” Atkins said.
“This stagnation is due to a lack of action and clear direction from government, both at a local and national level, when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in the UK,” he said.
“As a charity, we believe that community water fluoridation holds the key to improving the oral health of children up and down the country,” he said.
“Under new NHS reform plans announced earlier this year, the government pledged to take back control of community water fluoridation in order to make the process of implementing schemes both more efficient and less costly,” he said.
“We need to hold the government accountable for this and hope that in years to come, we will see more and more community water fluoridation schemes,” he said.
Fluoride has been researched extensively for decades now and has been found time and time again to be very effective in protecting teeth from decay and erosion, the OHF said.
When added into the water supply, studies have shown that community water fluoridation can reduce tooth decay but up to 35%, the OHF continued.
The OHF believes that water fluoridation would be especially effective for those living in more deprived areas where access to dental care may be limited.
The report also revealed that children living in the most deprived areas of the country were almost three times as likely (16.6%) to experience tooth decay as those living in the least deprived areas (5.9%).
Atkins said that while the nation waits to see improvements made, everyone can take steps to improve their oral health by following a strong oral health routine at home.
“There is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to addressing oral health inequalities in this country,” he said.
“However, while we strive towards that goal, we would encourage everyone, including children, to brush their teeth with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day,” he said.
“This, along with cleaning in between your teeth daily, can set you and your children up with a healthy smile for life,” he said.