Monday, May 17, 1999 Published at 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Dental health drive launched
Regular cleaning can keep teeth healthy
A nationwide campaign has been launched to increase the number of people who make regular visits to a dentist.
Currently, less than half of Britons have frequent dental check-ups, and 19 out of 20 will suffer from gum disease at some point in their life.
This has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and low birth weight in children.
The British Dental Health Foundation hopes 'National Smile Week' will improve overall dental health.
As well as regular visits to dentists, the campaign recommends cleaning teeth and gums twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and cutting down on sugary food and drink.
The British Dental Association says that while overall dental health is far better than it was two decades ago, the number of adults having regular check-ups is falling.
A spokesman said: `If you go to the dentist regularly, problems can be picked up early.
`There was a 75 per cent reduction in tooth decay in 12-year-olds between 1973 and 1993.
`But our latest figures show that only 46 per cent of people are making regular visits to NHS dentists, and that only 62 per cent of children are registered with NHS dentists, despite treatment being free.'
Dentists can also spot the warning signs of oral cancer - there are 3,000 new cases of this a year diagnosed in the UK.
She was demonstrating the latest in toothbrush technology - a brush which vibrates at 31,000 a second, and uses sound waves to dislodge dental plaque.
The Adult Dental Health Survey in 1988 - the most recent major Government review - showed that 44 per cent of people with teeth show some signs of decay.
Of those surveyed, 45 per cent said that fear stopped them going to the dentist.
Just over one third said they only went to the dentist when they were actually in pain.
Decay was lowest in the young and in the South of England - 68 per cent of them had none.
Nearly on third of all adults had 12 or more fillings, and one in five of the population had no teeth at all.