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Gravesham children have worst teeth in Kent

By Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

Young children in Gravesham have worst teeth than anywhere else in Kent.

A survey found 24.1% of five-year-olds in the borough have experienced obvious untreated dentinally decayed teeth.

Bad dental hygiene affects children's growth and development because it hurts for them to chew.

Children in Gravesham have the worst teeth. Stock image
Children in Gravesham have the worst teeth. Stock image

Parents are advised to cut down on how much sugary food and drink their children consumes and ensure their teeth are brushed daily with fluoride toothpaste.

Kent County Council consultant for public health Samantha Bennett said: "Gravesham had the second highest rate of the whole of the south east for children who had to have their teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

"This is a big thing for a child to have and that's 1.3% of six to 10-year-olds have had this.

"What we are doing now is a really concentrated piece of work in that area so we have a dentist supporting us in this at the moment to try and find the drivers of what is meaning the children have such poor oral health."

Despite Thanet often being an outlier for poor health due to high levels of deprivation, five-year-olds on the Isle have "relatively good dental health".

Ms Bennett explained: "Thanet has weirdly good oral health, considering the link between deprivation and oral health, according to the data we have.

"They also have reasonable access to dentists as well so at the same time as looking into Gravesham we will also be trying to understand about what the Thanet experience is and what's happening in those areas."

"Gravesham had the second highest rate of the whole of the south east" - Samantha Bennett

Councillors on the health reform and public health cabinet committee today (March 13) shared their surprise at the results.

Representative for Margate, Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab), said: "To say Thanet is relatively good, the rest of the area must be awful.

"Denistry in Thanet is not relatively good. I know my information is anecdotal but I question these figures.

"I don't know where you got them from but it doesn't relate to reality."

All the data in the report has been provided by the dentists through NHS Digitial.

"I find it curious that Gravesham should be so ahead of the pack" - Cllr Matthew Balfour

Cllr Matthew Balfour (Con) inquired whether the ethnicity of Gravesham may be an explanation for these figures.

He said: "I find it curious that Gravesham should be so ahead of the pack.

"I just wonder if we have any statistics about the correlation between oral health and ethnic and religious groups because some groups within the population are very much fonder of sweet things than others."

Samantha Bennett replied: "Whenever Dartford and Gravesham become the outliers in the issues, because of the demographic profile with the large proportion of ethnic groups, that's where you immediately go.

"That will be something we will be looking at as the information does suggest people from different ethnic backgrounds do have poorer teeth.

"If you are particularly new to this country or to the systems, not only may you have cultural dispositions to different diets that are more harmful to your health, you may not know how to access the preventative systems or treatment."

While most of the figures around children's oral health are better than the national average this is not the same for adults.

Under half of the adult Kent population has visited the dentist in the past two years.

Around 20% of Kentish adults had emergency dental treatment for extreme signs of oral disease, facial swelling and infection in 2016.

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