England's poorest suffering increasing levels of severe dental disease
6 June 2008
England's policy on dental health is condemning the young and the poor to increasing numbers of emergency extractions being undertaken in a hospital setting, says a leading dentist.
Dr David Moles of UCL Eastman Dental Institute has been analysing trends in hospital admissions over a nine-year period. His findings will add weight to the recent study published by the University of Bristol, which says emergency admissions for dental abscesses have nearly doubled in eight years.
And Dr Moles says "There has been a widening gulf between rich and poor, over recent years with the least well-off fifth of the population being those most likely to not receive the dental care they need until they require hospitalisation".
"My research shows that eighty-six per cent of those admitted were done so as emergency cases. It's especially common amongst young people, particularly young adult men. They should have received care long before they reached this state.
The British Dental Association has pointed out that the government's own figures indicate that the government's reforms are failing to achieve their aim of improving patient's access to NHS dentistry and that the current arrangement 'encourages sporadic, episodic treatment, rather than the long-term continuing relations that dentists and their patients value'.
Dr Moles used the government's own Index of Multiple Deprivation which divides the country into areas and ranks them from most deprived to most affluent and applied it to his own study of hospital admissions.
"After I saw the piece from the Bristol group I realised I was sitting on much more detailed data. My results show the numbers of hospital admissions for dental abscess have been rising rapidly in all groups, but much faster amongst poorer members of society. Indeed the numbers of admissions amongst the most deprived people have trebled in only nine years."
Dr Moles concludes "As I stated in my letter to the 'British Medical Journal' (BMJ): This is a bleak picture of both a worsening situation and increasing socio-economic inequalities"
To read Dr Moles' letter in the BMJ, see BBC News online coverage of the University of Bristol study, and to learn more about UCL Eastman Dental Institute, which celebrates its 60-year anniversary this year, use the links at the top of the article.