Inequalities in oral health report confirms ‘’the urgent need to level up access to NHS dentistry”.

The Association of Dental Groups has welcomed the publication of Public Health England’s report on “Oral health inequalities in England”.  The report reveals stark variations between regions in oral health and highlights a clear “north/south” divide.

Standardised incidence of oral cancer was highest in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber regions.

The report highlights relative inequalities in the prevalence of dental decay in 5 year old children in England and that these have increased from 2008 to 2019.

Prevalence of tooth decay in 5 year old children was highest in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber.  This was repeated for 12 year olds.

Public Health England have also recommended water fluoridation as a whole population intervention as there is evidence that it reduces oral health inequalities with a greater benefit for those living in more deprived areas.

Neil Carmichael, Chair of the ADG, said:

“This comprehensive report, the first time epidemiological data, NHS data and academic research has been brought together in this way casts a clear light on the oral health inequalities that still exist in England.  What is more concerning is the emergence over the last decade of a clear “north/south” divide.    The pandemic will have only exacerbated these inequalities. The Government has to address this as part of its commitment to “levelling up” the country.”

“I am pleased with the government’s intention to act on water fluoridation which is recommended by the Public Health England report as reducing oral health inequalities in more deprived areas.  We look forward to further recommendations from Public Health England on how to address inequalities.  However we clearly have to increase access to NHS dentistry in much of the country.  The current model of commissioning by UDA activity is not flexible enough to achieve this and in the same parts of the country where oral health is poor, recruitment of dentists is challenging.  Addressing these issues will be part of the solution.”

Public Health England’s report on oral health inequalities in England is available here.