Oral health


Content last reviewed: 24 March 2016

Adult and child oral health in England has been improving over the past 30 years, this has been evidenced by surveys co-ordinated by the British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry and the national decennial surveys for Child and Adult Dental Health. The main reason for the reduction has been the widespread use of fluoridated toothpaste.

Good oral health is an integral part of overall health. Poor dental health impacts on general health in the following ways: - difficulty with speaking due to loss of teeth, inability to enjoy foods, affects the quality of life and self esteem. The Department of Health has included oral health as part of a bigger programme of public health initiatives (1) (2) to ensure healthier lifestyles are more easily adopted. Choosing a Better Diet (3) emphasised the need to reduce sugar consumption to 11%. Choosing Better Oral Health (4) recognised the common risk factor approach (5) i.e. that chronic diseases such as obesity, stroke, cancers etc and oral disease have a common risk. A poor diet, combined with smoking and heavy alcohol consumption together contributes to the development of different chronic diseases as already mentioned.

Since April 2013 responsibility for commissioning oral health promotion and dental epidemiology transferred to local councils. Central Bedfordshire Council has the commissioning responsibility for oral health commissioning and since April has been in liaison with Public Health England and the Hertfordshire and South Midlands NHS England Area Team in commissioning evidenced based health. Closer partnership working with PHE will ensure evidenced based fluoride interventions are commissioned by Central Bedfordshire to efficiently and effectively reduce dental decay especially in children.

The dental health of children in Central Bedfordshire is relatively good when compared to Bedford Borough and also the England average dental caries experience of children. This has been evidenced in the recent national BASCD survey (British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry) of five- year-olds for 2007/08 and 2011/12. The dental health of twelve-year-olds for 2008/2009 also compared better to both Bedford Borough and England results.

The 2011/12 five year old BASCD survey shows the percentage of five year old children free of decay experience to be 83.6% whilst the average England figure is 72.1%. This is likely to be due to areas of water fluoridation and oral health promotion programmes.

However, there are still substantial improvements to be made, as these figures mask oral health inequalities. Socially disadvantaged children experience disproportionately high levels of dental disease.

Improvements in oral health should focus on reducing oral health inequalities by reducing the decay experience of 5 year old children, providing better access to dental services for young infants and for looked after children.

Oral health includes maintaining healthy oral tissues. Tobacco smoking is known to cause oral cancer as well as causing gum disease. In addition to focussing on reducing dental decay, it is important to introduce smoking cessation Level 2 services within dental practices so that patients have more opportunities in different primary care settings to give up smoking.


(1) Choosing Health: Making Healthier Choices Easier, DoH 2004

(2) Delivering Choosing Health: Making Healthier Choices Easier, DoH 2005

(3) Choosing a Better Diet: a Food and Health Action Plan, DoH 2005

(4) Choosing Better Oral Health :An oral health plan for England DoH 2005

(5) Sheiman A Watt R (2000)


Last updated Friday, 22nd April 2016