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Saturday, 22 July, 2000, 00:55 GMT 01:55 UK
Ethnic tooth decay 'decreasing'
Severe tooth decay among children is falling
Tooth decay among children from ethnic minorities has dropped substantially in recent years.

In minority ethnic groups we have a great success story to learn from

Professor Raman Bedi, Eastman Dental Institute
A study carried out by the Eastman Dental Institute in London found that the traditional gap in the oral health of white children and those from ethnic backgrounds is closing.

The study looked at four- and five-year-old children in Manchester with severe tooth decay.

It found that between 1989 and 1998, rates of tooth decay among south Asian children had dropped.

The study also found that the oral hygiene in white children had improved three fold since 1989, while black-Caribbean children were "significantly more likely" to have no decay compared with white children.

'Winning the battle'

Professor Raman Bedi, director of the National Centre for Transcultural Oral Health at the Eastman Dental Institute, said the findings showed that dentists had been successful in tackling decay.

"Oral health in Britain has been and still is improving, but over the past decade we have been concerned about the inequalities between the affluent and deprived groups in our society.

"The inequality is most evident in the primary teeth of very young children.

"The dental profession has been working hard to meet these challenges and - although there is still a long way to go - evidence is emerging that we are winning the battle."

He said the improvements in oral hygiene among south Asian children could have important lessons for dentists.

Flouride tablets

"In minority ethnic groups like the South Asian community we have a great success story to learn from.

"This is a good basis to plan how we are going to manage people now entering the UK, such as refugees and families from Eastern Europe."

Dr Martin Tickle, consultant in dental public health with Salford and Trafford Health Authority, said the results were very encouraging.

"I think the results are a culmination of a number of things but one of the specific things we have done is to target a fluoride tablet programme at schools with the highest rates of decay.

"We have also been working hard at providing a consistent message to dentists and oral health professionals around reducing sugar levels and the early weaning of children."

The study is published in the British Dental Journal.

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