An “unacceptable and growing chasm” exists in the UK between those with good and poor oral health, according to the British Dental Association’s (BDA’s) Oral Health Inequalities Policy which is published today. The policy highlights the close association between low socio-economic status and poor oral health, calling for more focus on preventive care. It also says there should be a more integrated approach to oral health from health and social care providers. Furthermore, the paper argues greater priority should be given to particular patient groups, including those with disabilities, older people and the prison population.
The contributions of alcohol and tobacco to oral health inequalities are stressed by the paper, particularly as risk factors for oral cancer. It calls for resources to enable dental professionals to take a more preventive approach, including counselling patients on the dangers associated with alcohol and tobacco products, referring patients to smoking cessation schemes and the extension of the ability to prescribe Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to a wider group of health professionals.
Professor Damien Walmsley, Scientific Adviser to the BDA, said:
“There has been a significant improvement in the nation’s overall oral health over the last 30 years, but despite that we still see a huge disparity that is all-too-often related to social deprivation. It is completely unacceptable that in Britain, in 2009, such a wide gap should exist.
“Much good work to address this problem has begun, and this report commends a number of schemes such as Brushing for Life and Sure Start that are starting to make a difference. However, a great deal of work remains to be done and it is vital dentists are supported in doing it.”
The Oral Health Inequalities Policy is available at: http://www.bda.org/inequalities.
The British Dental Association