Poorer people have less teeth than their rich counterparts

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A study has revealed that the poorest people often have eight teeth less by the time they reach their seventies than the richest people.

It is already known that there is a link between oral health and socio-economic status, but this research has revealed the full extent of this problem.

The British study involved in excess of 6000 people aged 21 and over, from all income groups. It was found that those with higher deprivation levels, lower education levels, lower occupation levels and lower incomes had the worst oral health, including gum disease, tooth gaps, tooth decay and fewer teeth.

The study was undertaken by Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, the National Centre for Social Research, University College London and Newcastle University.

The head of the Newcastle University dental school, Professor Jimmy Steele, said that poorer people having worse dental health than the richest does not come as a huge surprise, however the vast differences and the impact it has on people is the biggest surprise.

He said having eight less teeth has a huge affect on people.

A senior lecturer at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL, Dr Georgios Tsakos, said education was important. He said that they found younger adults’ perceptions of quality of life and oral health were not the only reasons for poor oral health, their educational achievement made a huge difference as well.

According to a professor of health economics at Newcastle University Business School, and the principal investigator on the ESRC study, John Wildman, this issue has not received sufficient attention.

He said the inequalities in oral health have not been given the attention it deserves and this study is a bid to try and change the balance. He said oral health is a huge contributor to daily wellbeing and confronting the issues could result in huge improvements in the quality of life for many individuals.

The head of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at UCL, Professor Richard Watt, referred to the policy implications linked to this research. He said oral health inequalities need urgent attention by organisations like Public Health England and more needs to be done to face the underlying causes of poor oral health, such as diet.

An example of the impact on daily life of those who have lost teeth is Sydney Alcock, a 68-year-old shoemaker from Washington, Tyne and Wear. As a young man, he was a keen trombonist in a brass band. He lost all his teeth at a very young age due to gum disease, which was mainly caused by poor oral hygiene and has been struggling ever since. He has never been a regular smoker and states that his diet did not include much sugar.

Mr Alcock said he had false teeth, but they do not last very long and replacements are expensive.

He added that his family could not afford eggs or milk when he was young, so they consumed powdered eggs and he is sure that this affected the condition of his teeth.

Image Credit: Joopey

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