Lockdown has caused a ‘scandalous’ north-south divide when it comes to the health of people’s teeth across England.
According to the latest NHS dental statistics, the top 10 areas with the worst teeth are all in northern England, with Middlesbrough topping the list, followed by South Tyneside and Barnsley.
It comes as dentists warn of the “scandalous” dental health inequalities across the country – with the gap between north and south likely get worse due to the pandemic.
They say the impact of sugar-rich lockdown diets, poor access to care and the suspension of public health programmes (many operated via schools) will come at a terrible cost to both adults and children in our most deprived communities.
Meanwhile, a recent study warned Covid patients with gum disease are nine times more likely to die of the virus.
Covid-19 patients are three times more likely to end up in intensive care or on a ventilator if they already suffer from periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease, the findings say.
According to the new figures, Middlesbrough in the North East has the worst problem with rotten teeth overall, with 38,696 fillings and fissure sealants performed on adults last year, and 14,495 on children.
That works out as 358 of these procedures for every 1,000 adults in the area, and 442 for every 1,000 children.
Also making it into the top five areas with the highest rates were South Tyneside in the North East, Barnsley in Yorkshire, Blackburn with Darwen in the North West and Doncaster in Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, Richmond upon Thames in London has the lowest rate, with 13,930 procedures performed on adults and 9,614 on children – a rate of just 92 for every 1,000 adults and 210 for every 1,000 kids.
Other areas with particularly low rates included Wokingham in the South East, and Camden, Kensington and Chelsea, and Wandsworth in London.
It’s possible that some of the regional divide may be due to a higher prevalence of private dentists in the south compared to the north.
Unfortunately, figures on the number of procedures performed by private dentists are not publicly available.
There may also be some differences in local public health programmes.
Despite this, experts say the figures speak to deep levels of inequality that are now expected to widen.
Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association, said: “Even before COVID this country had scandalous dental health inequalities.
“For far too long decay – a wholly preventable disease – has gone unchallenged as the number one reason for child hospital admissions, and that burden has fallen squarely on families in our most deprived communities.
“Now the gap between rich and poor, north and south now looks set to widen.
“Access to services has fallen off a cliff, and we are no closer to a return to ‘business as usual’. Ministers need to support practices and offer real investment in prevention if we are going to avoid an oral health crisis.”
Top 10 areas in England with highest rates of fillings – by area, rate per 1,000 adults and rate per 1,000 children
Middlesbrough – 358, 442
South Tyneside – 376, 366
Barnsley – 338, 449
Blackburn with Darwen – 262, 552
Doncaster – 311, 408
Redcar & Cleveland – 335, 294
Wirral – 334, 295
Rotherham – 308, 366
Gateshead – 304, 386
Sunderland – 312, 336
Top 10 areas in England with the lowest rates of fillings
Richmond upon Thames – 92, 210
Wokingham – 132, 174
Camden – 117, 246
Kensington and Chelsea – 121, 257
Wandsworth – 123, 252
Surrey – 132, 217
Milton Keynes – 135, 206
Tower Hamlets – 122, 264
Bexley – 142, 202
Hackney – 132, 246