Wednesday, September 8, 1999 Published at 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
British keeping their teeth
Many more people are keeping their teeth
A massive improvement in dental health has been revealed by a government survey released on Wednesday.
Half as many people are losing all their teeth as 20 years ago, and people are not only hanging on to their natural teeth, but also keeping them in better shape.
The Adult Dental Health Survey, published by the Office for National Statistics, found that 13% of adults were without a single natural tooth in 1998.
This compares to 21% in 1988, and 30% in 1978.
Last year, 83% of adults had 21 or more teeth left, compared to 73% two decades ago.
A full adult set of teeth should number 32.
Call for strategy
But John Hunt, chief executive of the British Dental Association, was not entirely upbeat, saying that much more needed to be done.
He said: "The Government must make dentistry a higher priority if it is to reduce inequalities in oral health and improve quality.
"We welcome the announcement from the Minister of Health that the Government will publish its strategy for dentistry at the end of the year - but we have been waiting for that strategy since it was announced in April last year."
Scottish people had the worst dental health in the UK , according to the survey, with, on average, 8.2 missing teeth.
They also had the lowest number of sound and untreated teeth, with Northern Ireland close behind.
England came out best, with 15.5 untreated and sound teeth on average, just ahead of Wales.
Those in the south of England fared better than the north and midlands, with 10% of adults proving toothless, compared to 15% in the midlands and 13% in the North.
Health Minister John Denham said: "People in every part of the UK have seen improvements but we recognise that there are still marked regional variations.
"We are determined to improve oral health and tackle problems of access to dentists."
Surveys have shown that the number of people registered with a dentist is dropping, and there have been complaints that it is difficult to get registered with an NHS dentist in some areas of the country.