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News / January 24, 2012

Concern over teenagers

by Guy Hiscott

Northern Irish teens have some of the least healthy teeth in Europe, according to research by Queen’s University Belfast.

The study also suggests that Northern Irish oral health is linked to wealth. Rich teenagers were more likely to receive aesthetic and orthodontic treatments. Poorer teens were twice as likely to suffer permanent tooth damage.

The Department of Health (DH) published a dental health strategy five years ago. But the British Dental Association (BDA) does not feel that the government has made any significant headway in implementation.

Peter Crooks, chairman of the BDA’s Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘The BDA has been talking with the Department of Health for the past five years and there seems to be very little progress in this. Our young people throughout the country need to have better dental health.’

Northern Ireland’s Chief Dental Officer, Donnocha O’Carolan admitted that the levels of oral health in Ireland were ‘poor’, but insisted that the DH has been ‘extremely proactive’ about reducing decay levels in the last five or six years.

‘There are three main things we need to do,’ he said. ‘One is to get fluoride onto the children’s teeth. The second is to put fissure sealants on their adult teeth when they erupt to protect them and the third thing is to improve the diet.

‘We have had fluoride toothpaste schemes throughout the most deprived areas in Northern Ireland running since 2005 and we have noticed a decline in the number of extractions and fillings.’