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Level of need in the population

Adults :: Dental health in adults :: Level of need in the population

Dental need may be estimated from the latest national Adult Dental Health Survey undertaken in 2009/10.[1] The findings indicate that oral health has improved significantly over the past few decades; for example, 6% of adults were assessed as having no natural teeth in 2009/10 compared to 28% in 1978 (Figure 1). However, as people retain their teeth for longer, the potential for dental diseases increases and the need for maintenance can be substantial. In 2009/10, one in five adults in the South East Coast SHA has active tooth decay and may need fillings, and over two in ten of those aged 55 years and older have severe gum disease that requires periodontal treatment.

Figure 1: Oral health of adults in the South East Coast SHA compared to the England population.
Figure 1: Oral health of adults in the South East Coast SHA compared to the England population. *LOA=loss of attachment, PUFA=pain, ulceration, fistula or abscess.[1]

The findings of the Medway Adult Oral Health Survey 2009 provide a local indication of dental need. In Medway, the proportion of adults with at least one tooth was higher than in England but the proportion with 21 or more teeth was lower, i.e. there may be more people with teeth but the number of teeth present may not be adequate to enable acceptable social functioning.

A significant 7%, compared to 10% for England, reported experiencing pain from their teeth or gums at the time of the national survey. Current pain was less common in the South East Coast although pain in the last 12 months was more prevalent. It is likely that people who experienced pain in the last 12 months had been able to access services for pain relief and therefore did not experience current pain. Medway adults were more likely than South East Coast adults to report having pain in the past 12 months.

Experience of dental restorations was similar between South East Coast and England. However, in Medway the proportion having restorations was lower, as was the number of teeth filled or crowned. This comparison is made with caution as the England data were collected clinically whereas the Medway data were self–reported.

Most adults brushed their teeth at least twice a day. The England ADHS reported that two in ten were current smokers, whereas in the Medway Adult Oral Health Survey, the prevalence of smoking was over 30%. Within Medway, smoking was more prevalent in Chatham, a recognised risk factor in incidence of oral cancer.

Most adults visited their dentists regularly for check–ups, but a significant minority visited only when in trouble. In Medway a relatively high proportion had never been to the dentist. Among those who had not visited the dentist in the past two years, three in ten in the South East Coast had difficulties finding a dentist.


[1]   The Information Centre. The Adult Dental Health Survey 2009 2011;