Scottish Government must do more to tackle oral health inequalities
24 October 2018
BDA Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to make faster progress in tackling long-standing oral health inequalities. While the BDA welcomes the continued overall improvement in children's dental health in the latest National Dental Inspection Programme Report, there are stark differences across Scotland. The percentage of Primary 1 children free from dental decay in Dumfries and Galloway (67%) is 17 percentage points lower than in Orkney (84%).
The BDA is deeply concerned that recent progress on closing the oral health gap between the most and least deprived areas in the country now risks going into reverse. Latest figures show that the percentage of Primary 1 children free from dental decay in the most deprived areas is 30 percentage points worse than in the least deprived areas (56% versus 86%) – and the gap actually increased by 3 percentage points from the previous report. In 2016, that gap had shown signs of narrowing.
Figures also show that the percentage of children free from dental decay in the most deprived areas (56%) is still falling short of the Scottish Government's 2010 target of 60%.
These findings follow a recent report about children in deprived communities with painful tooth decay facing long waits for having their teeth removed. Clearly, more needs to be done to improve oral health in Scotland's most deprived areas.
While the BDA welcomes the extension of the Childsmile programme, it urges the Scottish Government to go further and faster to tackle the alarming oral health inequalities in Scotland. This includes a greater focus on prevention. The BDA is also calling on Ministers to work with NHS Boards to ensure that sufficient services are in place to treat those with urgent needs promptly.
Robert Donald, Chair of the BDA's Scottish Council said:
"Dentists have applauded the progress secured through Childsmile, but this data is a stark reminder that the Scottish Government cannot rest on its laurels.
"Scotland's oral health gap had shown signs of closing, and we must ensure hard-won progress is not undone. Ministers now need to go further and faster to tackle the scandal of these deep and persistent health inequalities."
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