This QualityWatch report analyses data on dental health outcomes and activity. It reveals that, while dental health has shown consistent overall improvement over decades, there has been persistent regional and socioeconomic inequality.

Several data sources indicate that dental health is generally better in the south and east of England and poorer in the north of England. These regional differences reflect the fact there has been a consistent gap between the rich and poor, with deprived groups more likely to require hospital treatment and parents of children eligible for free school meals finding it harder to access a dentist.

Key findings

  • Overall, dental health has been improving over time: the proportion of adults without any natural teeth has reached an all-time low; the proportion of young children with tooth decay has been steadily falling; and satisfaction with dentistry remains high. But there is significant variation within this.
  • Children in the Blackburn with Darwen local authority area were four times more likely to have missing, decayed or filled teeth than children in South Gloucestershire in 2015: just 44% of children in Blackburn were free from decay compared with 86% in South Gloucestershire.
  • In Yorkshire, hospitalisation for tooth extractions among those aged under 10 years old was five times higher than in the east of England in 2015/16 (845 per 100,000 population compared to 160 per 100,000).
  • 83% of 5-year-olds in the least deprived areas of the country had healthy teeth in 2014/15, compared to 70% in the most deprived areas.
  • People from the most deprived backgrounds were twice as likely (14%) to be hospitalised for dental work than those that were better off (7%) in 2015.
  • 18% of parents with children eligible for free school meals found it difficult to find an NHS dentist in 2013, compared with 11% of parents whose children were not.

The report is available from the QualityWatch website at www.qualitywatch.org.uk/dental-health

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