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COVID-19 has widened existing oral health inequalities as a result of unprecedented disruption to care and public health programmes, as well as poor lockdown diets and increased poverty.
Children across the UK have been taken from their normal routines. Schools have closed, parents have had to work from home, home school their kids in many cases and try to juggle the two. For anyone who found themselves furloughed, out of work or their income severely strained, this is a problem in itself, but for those close to the breadline they may have suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of that. For example, budget constraints often mean healthy and nutritious food is put to one side in favour of multibuy deals. This is not a problem created by the pandemic, but rather one that has made worse.
The impact of social determinants of health on oral health should not be overlooked. Families are more likely to make healthier choices when the environment allows that; stable housing, financial stability and family support – oral health prevention alone will not work, and we need to aim to tackle the social determinants of health through an upstream approach. There are opportunities to integrate oral health and dental services into general health services through the emerging Primary Care Networks and Integrated Care Systems.
COVID-19 provides an important lesson and should be a driver to re-evaluate and improve local paediatric dental services. In particular, ora...
COVID-19 provides an important lesson and should be a driver to re-evaluate and improve local paediatric dental services. In particular, oral health inequalities need to be highlighted within any relevant health system-wide networks. A more holistic approach to children’s health, which includes oral health, is likely to provide the best outcomes.