The cost of living crisis is having a dire impact on children's teeth

woman putting toothpaste on toothbrush
Children's oral health is a 'national disgrace' Isabel Pavia - Getty Images

As you might have witnessed in your own life, one devastating reality of the cost of living crisis is the impact on some children's health. Now, one senior paediatrician is speaking about the link between the national decline in living standards and the state of children's oral health.

In a recent interview, Dr Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that longstanding health inequalities are sharpening due to the current situation. In turn, this is affecting the sorts of illnesses that children are coming to doctors with.

How is the cost of living crisis impacting kid's teeth?

Speaking to The British Medical Journal, Kingdon said: 'One [example] that we often forget about is oral health and the state of children’s teeth, which is actually a national disgrace. The commonest reason for a child having a general anaesthetic in this country is dental clearance. That’s a terrible admission of failure.'

Already a serious public health issue, the strain of spiking energy and food bills on parents' and carer's ability to fund oral care for their children is exacerbating matters, she went on.

'It reflects diet, and it reflects a family’s ability to buy a toothbrush and toothpaste, because when you’re struggling to feed your family, [that] becomes a luxury item. It is simple but very visible, alarming evidence of how [the cost of living crisis] is impacting children’s health.'

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recently asked the government to bring in mandatory guidelines on how much sugar and salt baby food can contain, in order to help to protect kids from tooth decay, as well as other issues linked too much of the ingredients.

What does the data show?

Kingdon is not alone in highlighting this problem. In June 2022, charity the Oral Health Foundation published research which explored the link between the rising cost of living and a decline in oral health. It found that the crisis was cited as a reason for 31% of people who had not been to the dentist in over 2 years swerving a check-up. Startlingly, it found that 25% of parents had spent less money on theit own oral health, to fund care for their children's teeth.

What does the British Dental Association say?

When WH asked the British Dental Association for its response to the comments, a spokesperson said: 'Dentistry shouldn't be a luxury or an optional extra. Sadly, cost of living pressures mean a growing number of families can’t afford the basics.

'While NHS dentistry is free for certain groups, many on very modest incomes are also finding needed care is beyond their means. Meanwhile an even greater number can't even secure an appointment given the depth of the current access crisis. This is a perfect storm, and deep oral health inequalities are set to widen.'

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