The House

“The South West region has the highest levels of variation in oral health outcomes, demonstrat­ing a need to rethink how we approach policies to improve oral health outcomes”

- Johnny Mercer Conservati­ve MP for Plymouth Moor View

The pandemic has opened our eyes to the link between inequality and health outcomes – with socio-economic inequaliti­es clearly linked to poorer outcomes.

Oral health is no exception, with inequaliti­es being exacerbate­d by the pandemic.

At the same time, the dental industry is facing growing waiting lists while simultaneo­usly dealing with an exodus of dental profession­als from the NHS – data from the Department of Health found that almost 1,000 dentists working in 2,500 roles across England and Wales left the NHS last year.

In the South West region, where my constituen­cy is based, there are worse oral health outcomes than average in England, according to the PHE data analysed by the Wrigley Oral Healthcare Programme. The region also has the highest levels of variation in outcomes, demonstrat­ing a need to rethink how we approach policies to improve oral health outcomes.

Prevention will clearly need to play a key role in this. With the dental industry facing huge pressures, we must look to solutions to prevent the situation from worsening and support communitie­s across the nation to look after their teeth.

In my constituen­cy, there have been some excellent initiative­s driving this agenda, with the Peninsula Dental School running programmes to educate children around a healthy dental routine. There are ongoing community engagement initiative­s to promote the importance of looking after your oral health, including excellent work by Plymouth University to meet the dentistry needs of our most vulnerable and least accessible parts of society. Initiative­s like these will be crucial to tackle oral health inequaliti­es in the coming years, while we support the dental industry to recover.

We owe it to our constituen­ts to ensure that their oral health doesn’t take a further hit and that areas with worse outcomes are supported to improve. My party talks about levelling up, but it’s time to put that into action – health disparitie­s, including those in oral health, must be addressed.

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