BDA report attacks oral health inequalities

An "unacceptable and growing chasm" exists in the U.K. between those with good and poor oral health, according to the British Dental Association's (BDA) Oral Health Inequalities Policy, published last week.

The Oral Health Inequalities Policy sets out measures designed to tackle the unacceptable and growing inequalities in the nation's oral health, according to the BDA. The policy highlights the close association between low socioeconomic 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 and argues that greater priority should be given to particular patient groups, including those with disabilities, older people, and the prison population.

"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," said Damien Walmsley, BDS, MSc, PhD, professor of restorative dentistry at the University of Birmingham dental school and scientific adviser to the BDA. "It is completely unacceptable that in Britain, in 2009, such a wide gap should exist."

The BDA report emphasizes oral health education and preventive approaches to disease. It identifies the dental team as ideally placed to inform and advise patients about matters affecting their oral and general health, including nutrition, tobacco use, and alcohol use. Strategies are set out to address the special requirements of vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, prisoners, and those with disabilities.

The report also highlights the need for resources and remuneration to enable the dental team to spend time with patients and carry out their central role effectively. It calls for an evidence-based, integrated approach between all healthcare and social services, as many causes of poor oral health are also risk factors for systemic diseases.

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