The poorer you are, the more likely you are to have problems with your teeth and gums. That’s what Durham County Council’s cabinet will hear when it meets on March 15th to discuss an oral health strategy for the next three years.

A report will be presented to the cabinet that will outline the steps the council should take to reduce dental disease and improve oral health, especially among young children and vulnerable groups. 

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for adult and health services, Lucy Howels, said, “Oral health is important in itself, but it also affects our general health and wellbeing.” 

“Poor oral health can affect someone’s ability to eat, speak, smile and socialise normally, whether through pain or social embarrassment.”

“It is also clearly apparent that there are significant inequalities in dental health, with people living in deprived communities far more likely to suffer from tooth decay.” 

“The strategy aims not only to improve overall dental health in County Durham, but also to reduce inequalities, particularly among young children and vulnerable groups.”

Poor People Have Worse Dental Health, Durham County Council Finds
People living in poor areas tend to have worse dental health

The council’s oral health strategy has been drawn up by a steering group, which includes members of the dental profession and paediatricians, as well as representatives from the council and Public Health England. The strategy was also developed via a process of public consultation. 

Though the past 20 years have seen an overall improvement in dental health, statistics from 2012 showed that nearly a third of England’s five-year-olds had tooth decay. 

There are widespread variations in County Durham, with regards to tooth decay among young children. In the Woodhouse Close district of Bishop Auckland, 61% of five-year-olds have tooth decay. In contrast, only 6% of five-year-olds in the Chester-le-Street South ward have this problem. 

The evidence suggests that people living in deprived areas have consistently worse dental health, as do vulnerable groups such as the socially isolated, elderly and frail people, and those who suffer from physical or mental disabilities.

The report will make several recommendations for improving oral health, such as encouraging supervised brushing schemes and fluoride varnish schemes in nurseries and primary schools.

Poor People Have Worse Dental Health, Durham County Council Finds
Poor oral health is linked to poverty, unemployment and a range of health problems

One 2006 American study showed that welfare recipients with severe dental problems were more than twice as likely to find jobs after those problems were corrected.

Poor oral health has been linked to medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease and strokes. In the US, oral health problems and dental visits result in 164 million working hours being lost every year.  

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