Screening initiative 'failing poor children'
 

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Screening initiative 'failing poor children'

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Screening initiative 'failing poor children'

 

Screening initiative 'failing poor children'

Children from poor backgrounds are not benefiting from the nationwide programme to screen school children for tooth decay, government experts have claimed.

The Department of Health said the plan should be scrapped and suggested primary care trusts (PCTs) invest the funds in other plans instead.

A trial of 17,000 children found those from poor backgrounds benefit least from the screening, despite having significantly higher rates of tooth decay.

Children aged between six and nine years old are currently screened by dentists during school visits. Those in need of treatment are sent home with a letter asking them to go to their dentist, but research suggested the follow-up to this is poor.

In a letter to PCTs, the Department of Health said the National Screening Committee found no evidence to support continued screening.

A study carried out by the Oral Health Unit at the National Primary Care Development Centre showed only half of children in the North West of England with dental problems made a follow-up appointment and only 25% received appropriate treatment.

Results also showed that children from affluent backgrounds were more likely to visit the dentist and receive treatment after being screened.

Study leader Dr Keith Milsom said: ‘What we showed was that screening does not lead to any improvement and more importantly it does nothing to reduce inequalities between rich and poor. This is a signal to PCTs that dental screening is dead in the water.

‘The holy grail would be the fluoridation of drinking water supplies, which is safe, effective and ethical. Only 10% of the population have access to fluoridated water.’

Janet Clarke, chairman of the British Dental Association's central committee for community and public health dentistry, said: ‘This will give dentists the opportunity to spend more time providing dentistry to groups who have found it difficult to access care.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said routine screening was not cost-effective but that PCTs could continue with the programme if they wanted.

 Posted on : Tue 27th - Feb - 2007

 

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