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Dental caries, alarm to the most “vulnerable”: children (and the elderly) are at greater risk

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«In Italy, dental caries in preschool children is an unresolved public health problem, especially in low-income areas and among the most socially and economically disadvantaged groups, especially those of non-European backgrounds». To sound the alarm, a study has been published on Bmc Pediatrics
of which is the first signatory William Campusprofessor of preventive dentistry and preventive medicine and oral epidemiology at the University of Bern.

A sample of over six thousand children

The study used data on 6,825 children between 3 and 4 years old (52.8% women), obtained from the second epidemiological study called «National Pioneer in Child Oral Health in Italy »promoted in 2016 by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaboration Center for Epidemiology and Community Dentistry in Milan, which ended in 2017. Already from that research, published in Scientific Reports in 2020 it was created a significant correlation between the severity of cavity and socioeconomic inequalities among 12-year-olds
. “We wanted to see how the oral health situation might differ from the children of Italian descent and children who are not of Italian descent» explains Professor Campus.

Positive general situation but large inequalities

In general, dental pathologies of cavity have been declining for some time now

. Fundamentally thanks to the spread of fluoroprophylaxis, the Dmft (acronym for Decayed, missing and filled teeth, the index that measures the number rotten teethlost and filled by dental caries) decreased significantly in 6 and 12 year olds: from 12 rotten teeth (at age 12) 25 years ago to 0.8 today. As for the 4-year-old children, the percentage of caries patients has increased from 30% in 2007-2009 to the current 24%. “What is actually emphasized in our study is instead an unfortunately prevalent social inequality – underlines Campus -. Because if in the population of European origin there are 73.6% “caries-free” children, the sick in the non-European are unfortunately almost 80%».

Why so much difference in dental health

The reasons can be different: «As for children with an ethnicity or background as a result of immigration, the inequality is likely due to low income, but also the difficulty of accessing health facilities which can also be a cultural problem,” the expert replies. “Partly maybe they do not know the Italian language and failed to log in properly. But I believe it also exists the inability of the health system to be able to welcome these topics».

The research draws two kinds of conclusions. The first is linked to the children studied, who are are more at risk of getting the disease and therefore they should go to the dentist more often. But there is actually a more general conclusion: «Subjects such as mainly children with non-European roots or the elderly hardly ever enter the system. This is a public health problem that the health system should try to address as much as possible,” Campus concludes.

Source: Corriere

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