Poor Dental Health And Inequality Are Closely Linked

Poor Dental Health And Inequality Are Closely Linked

I do ask patients about any problems that they may have with their teeth or gums, and dental health is one of the keys to good health, but I don’t believe that it is the key. There is evidence that some dental problems may impact general health, most importantly the risk of heart disease and stroke. One of the first studies linking the two was published online in the journal Stroke on July 31, 2003. It showed that the more teeth a person has lost, the more likely he or she is to have both advanced periodontal infections and potentially clogging plaques in the carotid arteries that supply the brain.

Conceivably, oral health may contribute to heart disease through the inflammatory process, and perhaps because of inadequate nutritional intake. If you don’t have teeth, you can’t chew food well and may not get adequate amounts of heart-healthy nutrients and fiber. Research suggests that people with poor oral health should have cardiac exams even if they have no symptoms of heart disease.

There is also preliminary evidence that gum disease poses an increased risk of having a preterm, low birth-weight baby and makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels. All of these connections remain to be confirmed.

Oral health strategies to combat very high levels of tooth decay in children from deprived areas need to start from birth. That’s the conclusion of a large-scale study of the dental health of three-year olds published in the latest edition of the British Dental Journal.

Dental inspections of over 4,000 children in Greater Glasgow carried out for the study found tooth decay (caries) in at least a quarter of the children examined. Amongst children from deprived areas, the incidence of decay was even higher, with a third of those surveyed exhibiting evidence of caries.

The number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (dmft) – a commonly used measure for assessing oral health -in the children seen from the least deprived areas was 0.3. The researchers from the University of Glasgow Dental School reported an even higher dmft score for the children living in the most deprived areas (1.5). The examinations were carried out by dentists between 2006 and 2008.

Commenting on the findings, Andrew Lamb, BDA Director for Scotland, said:

“While there has been a significant improvement in the nation’s oral health over the past 40 years, this study highlights the depressing fact that poor dental health and inequality are closely linked from very early in life.

“Given that tooth decay is totally preventable, it’s unacceptable that social deprivation is still such a strong marker of poor dental health. This study reinforces the importance of providing support to children from deprived communities soon after they are born.

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