The study, published Nov. 18 in the Journal of Dental Research, looked at the socioeconomic position and oral health for 6,000 people. British researchers found that the dental health of the poorest 20 percent of society was substantially worse than the richest by all measures studied, including having more tooth decay, gum disease, tooth gaps and less teeth overall.
The study included more than 6,000 people aged 21 and over, from all income groups and regions of the United Kingdom, except Scotland.
"It's probably not a big surprise that poorer people have worse dental health than the richest, but the surprise is just how big the differences can be and how it affects people," said lead author Jimmy Steele, head of the dental school at Newcastle University. "Eight teeth less on average is a huge amount and will have had a big impact for these people."
Molars and Moolah
Steele says although the younger generation has better oral health than their parents ever did, "the differences between rich and poor are very considerable, and young people are particularly aware when they do not have a healthy mouth."
John Wildman, professor of health economics at Newcastle University Business School and the study's principal investigator, said that inequalities in oral health "have not received the attention that they deserve."
"Oral health contributes hugely to everyday well being," Wildman said, "and addressing these inequalities may result in considerable improvements in quality of life for large numbers of individuals."