Top dentist in Wales, Karl Bishop, has appealed to ban the iconic Coca-Cola Christmas truck from Swansea, citing concerns over child tooth decay. This comes as no surprise to dentists across the UK as 100ml of Coca-Cola has 10.6g of sugar. Beating other drinks such as Irn Bru (10.3g) or Lucozade Energy Original (8.7g).
The city of Liverpool has also considered banning the truck as Liberal Democrat MP, Richard Kemp, has also called for the ban. He argues that marketing for the drink will make it harder to tackle the city’s obesity rates.
Bishop too has argued that marketing and promotion of fizzy drinks is “not helpful in the continuing battle against poor oral health”. This is is a particularly important issue as the “number one reason for children undergoing treatment in a hospital is a dental disease”.
Using the NHS Choices wesbite, the BBC News conducted an analysis of 2,500 dental practices. Their results found that half were not accepting new adult NHS patients and two-fifths were not accepting new child NHS patients. The BDA have commeneted on these results, saying that they show an “emerging crisis” in dental care in England.
The BDA’s Chair of General Dental Practice has said that the figures are a “stark reminder that government has no interest in getting more people attending an NHS dentist”. This statement holds value as new data from NHS Digital showed that 4.9 million children have not had a free check-up in the past year (June 2016 to June 2017). Additionally over the course of 2 years, 21 million adults in England have not seen an NHS dentist.
The BDA argues that these issues are the “logical result of policies from successive governments” which penalises dentists who do not reach quotas and “does not pay them when they do more”.
These issues have resulted in dramatic results as one couple, who struggled to find an NHS dentist for 4 years, resorted to pulling out their own teeth. In some cases, they have delayed dental care, as one mother says it took her 5 years to find her son a dentist.
The British Society of Periodontology (BSP) and Diabetes.co.uk have together, collaborated to bring to light the link between gum health and diabetes. The two charaties have collaborated as strong evidence suggests that people with diabetes have a greater chance of developing gum disease however, there is lack of awareness of this.
In a survey carried out by the BSP of over 700 diabetics, found that a shocking 50% had stated they had not been given any information by their dentist, doctor or pharmacist about the risks of gum disease. A third were also unaware of the health implications diabetes has on gums, despite 75% of those surveyed had reported having bleeding gums.
Evidence also suggests that the link is in both directions – severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes and those without.
It has been said that oral health guidelines must be updated to adapt to our new ‘grazing’ culture. A report called ‘Eat, Drink, Think’ says that 83% of people surveyed said they have at least one snack a day in between their meals while 48% said they have more than one snack a day.
Further, A Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme commissioned report states that 21% of people surveyed do not think about the effect on their teeth when deciding what to eat and drink, and 45% said they think they can eat and drink as they like if they currently do not have oral health problems. Additionally, the report says that 22% said they forget to brush their teeth sometimes and do not believe that their oral health is as important as other parts of their health.
One way in which oral health guidelines can be updated, which has been suggested by a general dental practitioner, is to mention how sugar free gum can be used throughout the day, to help protect against acid attacks on teeth.
The British Dental Association (BDA) conducted a survey which questioned whether its members were looking to increase the amount of private dental work they do, move overseas to work, retire, or change profession. The survey found that 60% of dentists are planning on leaving the NHS over the next 5 years. It was also found that 53% of newly qualified dentists, under the age of 35, want to move away from the NHS.
The survey found that about 10% of newly qualified dentists want to move abroad for work, and a similar percentage plan to completely leave the dental professional. In spite of these figures, 42% of young dentists want to stay in the UK but work in the private dental industry.
Jeremy Hunt, UK’s Secretary of State for Health, said that our biggest global health threat could be antimicrobial resistance. This is when bacteria and viruses become resistant to antibiotics.
At the moment, many dentists prescribe patients antibiotics to treat various infections and oral diseases such as periodontal disease and gingivitis.
Dentists are able to take the lead in reducing the number of prescribed antibiotics due to their circumstances. One suggestion as an alternative to prescribing antibiotic pills is rinse-and-spit antibiotics.
After the launch of Starting Well, a programme set up in attempt to control the child tooth decay problem, the British Dental Association blamed the government for letting down children in England, as the programme will only operate in 13 local authorities. In the UK, tooth decay is the main reason why children are being admitted to hospitals, and it is costing the NHS more than £35 million each year. Therefore the scheme was set up to target areas with the highest tooth decay rates. However, many dentist leaders are saying that millions of children who are in need of support will miss out.