Report shows oral health gap is closing for Scottish children
EDINBURGH, Scotland: Oral health in Scotland’s child population is generally improving, but the British Dental Association (BDA) Scotland has recently said that more needs to be done to address oral health inequalities. The comments come after a recent study showed a significant difference in general oral health between children from lower socio-economic parts of the country and those from wealthier areas.
At first glance, the study by the National Dental Inspection Programme is very positive. In 2019, 80% of those in Primary 7 (children between 11 and 12 years old) were found to be free from dental caries. That figure is up 3 percentage points from the 2017 report and 27 percentage points since the first report was published in 2005. Additionally, the figures show that the average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth per child reduced from 1.29 in 2005 to 0.42 in 2019.
Dr Robert Donald, Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Council, said: “It’s good to see children’s dental health improving, but there is absolutely no room for complacency. There has been a slight reduction in the inequalities gap, but the difference remains stark.”
What was of particular concern to Donald and BDA Scotland were figures that showed that 69.5% of Primary 7 children from the most deprived areas were free from caries, a difference of almost 19 percentage points when compared with children from the least deprived areas. Acknowledging that the gap has reduced since the 2015 and 2017 report, Donald noted that “Ministers need to ensure that not only is the overall improvement sustained, but also make every effort to tackle inequalities in the oral health of our children.”
Although the report has indicated continual improvement, BDA Scotland has still called on the Scottish government to renew its efforts to tackle deep-rooted inequalities by investing more on prevention and local resources.