NI teenagers among the worst teeth in Europe

QUB study finds that youngsters in the province have some of the highest levels of tooth decay

A study from Queen’s University Belfast has found that Northern Ireland teenagers have some of the highest levels of tooth decay in Europe.

The report also highlighted the divide between rich and poor with affluent teenagers receiving orthodontic and aesthetic treatments, while those from deprived areas were found to be twice as likely to suffer permanent damage to their teeth.

The British Dental Association (BDA) in Northern Ireland has accused the government of dragging its feet on the dental health strategy that was published five years ago. Peter Crooks, chairman of the BDA’s Northern Ireland Dental Practice Committee, said: “I think it is critical that the strategy is implemented as soon as possible.

“We have been talking with the Department of Health for the past five years and there seems to be very little progress in this and our young people throughout the country need to have better dental health.”

However, the Chief Dental Officer for Northern Ireland Donnocha O’Carolan has insisted that there was already a lot of good work being done by the Department of Health. He said: “We do have poor oral health levels in Northern Ireland but the department has been extremely pro-active in the last five or six years to reduce these decay levels.

“There are three main things we need to do. 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.”