child improving oral healthAlmost three quarters of P1 children in Scotland show no signs of decay, the latest National Dental Inspection Programme shows.

This is an almost 3% rise since last year to 74% of Scottish children with no obvious signs of decay. Figures also show the average number of decayed, missing or filled teeth per child has dropped to 1.04.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish government says it will offer financial support to maintain this progress.

‘Our child oral health programmes have been paused due to the pandemic,’ a Scottish government spokesperson says.

‘We are actively looking at how we can safely restart these services in local communities, nurseries and schools as soon as possible.

‘We have put an unprecedented set of financial support measures in place to ensure NHS dental services can continue. And as well as deploying the Scottish government budget for NHS dental services, we are investing an additional £2.75m per month.

‘This means we are making exceptional payments to the value of £12m per month to support NHS dental incomes.

‘As part of the next phase of remobilisation, the intention is to raise the top-up. Further confirmation of this government’s commitment to NHS dental services.’

Oral health inequalities

Despite improvements in oral health, experts highlight the ‘stubborn’ link between deprivation and poor oral health.

Figures show almost 40% of children from the most deprived areas in Scotland experience tooth decay. While only around 12% of children experience decay from the more affluent areas.

The BDA warns this inequality gap could widen following the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘COVID risks undoing decades of progress in improving the dental health of our children,’ Robert Donald, chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Council, said.

‘Dentistry in Scotland is at a turning point. Routine check-ups remain off the cards for most families. Our public health programmes are struggling. And high street practices face a deeply uncertain future.

‘The oral health gap between rich and poor – which has proved so stubborn – will widen unless we see real commitment from the Scottish government.’