Yasmin Qureshi MP for Bolton South East has called on the government to address the rising tide of hospital extractions and shocking inequalities in oral health, as official data reveals that 5-year-olds in Bolton are 5 many times more likely to suffer from tooth decay than their peers in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency, with a shocking 40% of children affected.
Although dental decay can easily be prevented through reducing sugar consumption, regular brushing, and adequate exposure to fluoride, it has emerged as the number one reason why children aged 5 to 9 are admitted to hospital in the UK.
The number of children admitted for tooth extractions – usually requiring a general anaesthetic – has gone up by a quarter over the past 4 years.
According to the latest figures, more than a quarter of children in Bolton have not seen a dentist for more than 2 years – while ideally they should have a check-up every 6 months.
Independent studies have shown problems with teeth can have a lasting impact on children’s school readiness, impair their nutrition, development, and ability to socialise with other children. Poor oral health can also significantly affect confidence and self-esteem, with more than a quarter of teenagers saying they are too embarrassed to smile or laugh due to the condition of their teeth.
The tooth decay crisis is also damaging long-term life chances, as a new survey by YouGov for the British Dental Association shows that 83% of people in North West England feel decayed teeth or bad breath would hinder a candidate’s chances of securing employment in public or client-facing roles – while just under half that number (44%) felt the same about being overweight. Almost two thirds of respondents feel applicants with poor oral health would be at a disadvantage securing any job, with 64% believing it could hinder promotion prospects.
Yasmin Qureshi has called on the government to address deliver a real strategy for oral health, make the new dental contract truly preventive, and invest in NHS dentistry to improve access.
Speaking after a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dentistry and Oral Health, Ms. Qureshi said:
“Inequalities in the oral health of British children are truly shocking – it is simply not right that kids are 5 times more likely to suffer from decay just because they happened to be born in «Constituency» and not in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency.”
“It is simply not acceptable that tooth decay - an entirely preventable disease – is the number one reason our children are admitted to hospital. Politicians need to work with dentists, teachers and parents to ensure we can keep healthy teeth in healthy mouths, and give children the best possible start in life.”
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of General Dental Practice at the British Dental Association, said:
“Ministers have viewed oral health as an ‘optional extra’ for far too long. For the children lining up for tooth extractions in our hospitals decay has long term consequences. Whoever they grow up to be, the state of their mouths can affect their life chances.
“The link between decay and deprivation is still going unchecked in England. We think all children deserve the best start, and government must do more than pay lip service to these shocking inequalities. The times has come for the government to come up with a coherent strategy and an NHS dental contract focused squarely on prevention.