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The impact of poor oral health
Oral health is part of general health and well-being and contributes to the development of a healthy child. The most common oral disease affecting young children is dental caries (figure 1), which is largely preventable and is a public health priority. Oral health is one of Public Health England’s (PHE) priorities linking to; getting the best start in life, childhood obesity, nutrition including breastfeeding, weaning and cross-cutting themes such as inequalities and social justice. Poor oral health in children impacts on the children themselves and on their family and society. Dental caries is the most common reason for 5–9 year olds in England to be admitted to hospital, where they have teeth out under general anaesthesia. Over 60 000 children aged 0–19 years were admitted to hospital to have teeth removed under general anaesthesia in 2015/2016.1
Children with dental caries suffer pain and infection and often have difficulties eating, sleeping and socialising.2 They have to take time off school to attend the dentist and hospital, and this is often their first introduction to dental care and can lead to fear and anxiety with lifetime consequences. Poor oral health may be a sentinel marker of wider health and social issues, and dental neglect may be part of a safeguarding issue.3 Dental care is a significant cost with the National Health Service (NHS) spending £3.4 billion on all age dental care and an estimated additional £2.3 billion in the private dental market.4
Oral health of young children in England
The National Dental Epidemiology Programme gives support for the ongoing gathering, analysing and disseminating of robust and reliable information of the oral health needs of local populations.5 Although the oral health of 5 year olds in England and across the UK is improving (figure 2), the most recent 5-year-old dental survey6 found that almost …
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