Dental care under threat

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The Independent Online
A WIDE-RANGING plan to improve the nation's dental health is being suppressed by the Government, despite repeated calls for its publication.

Senior dentists are worried that the document, completed last January, is being shelved because of its controversial recommendations and the cost of implementing them.

The report, which calls for greater fluoridation of water, almost halving the amount of sugar we eat, and better quality dental work, will anger the sugar industry as well as many dentists.

David Blunkett, the Labour spokesman on health, intends to raise the issue in the Commons on Thursday when Parliament debates the White Paper The Health of the Nation. 'I regret very much that the present chaos which is emerging in dental general practice is undermining prevention and a long-term strategy for oral health,' he said.

The Oral Health Strategy Group's report was prepared by a 20-strong committee chaired by England's chief dental officer, Brian Mouatt. It was meant to do for the nation's teeth what The Health of the Nation, published in July, did for the rest of the body. It emphasises disease prevention and health promotion and sets targets for change.

The main recommendations are:

Daily sugar consumption to be cut from 100 grammes a day to 60, so that it makes up only 10 per cent of energy intake;

Increased water fluoridation, so that 28 per cent of the population is covered instead of the present 14 per cent;

Quality assurance and peer review in dental services; if a dentist's work does not last, he will not be paid for replacements;

Dentists to be encouraged to work in less popular areas, such as the North of England.

Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, is said to be worried about publishing the report when she is already in dispute with dentists over pay. Publication was originally set for 20 January. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: 'We do not have a date for the report and it is still in preparation.'