Researchers from the Newcastle University, University College London, the National Centre for Social Research, and the Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust have found out that the poorest people at least 65 years of age have on average eight teeth less than the richest of society at the same age.

Published in the Journal of Dental Research, their study affirmed that there is a strong connection between a person's oral health and their socio-economic standing. Over 6,000 individuals aged 21 years and above from various income groups across Northern Ireland, Wales, and England were examined, using data from the most recent UK Adult Dental Health Survey.

According to the researchers, those belonging to lower occupational and income classes had lower educational attainment, and experiencing higher deprivation generally received the worst of the clinical results, which included tooth gaps, more tooth decay, and gum disease, plus overall less teeth.

The study's lead author, Professor Jimmy Steele, Newcastle University's dental school head, said that it's not surprising to find out that poorer folks in society have worse dental health compared to those who are well-off. However, it is remarkable just how big the resulting difference was and how badly it can affect people.

He added that an average of eight fewer teeth is a big number so it will surely have a big impact for those affected. The researchers were not able to identify specific factors that led to the major discrepancy in teeth numbers between the poor and the rich but they did say it's likely to be a mix and not just about whether or not treatment was available.

According to the study's principal investigator John Wildman, a health economics professor from Newcastle University's Business School, the issue has not received ample attention. The study is an effort at bringing balance back, by first pointing out that an imbalance exists.

"Oral health contributes hugely to everyday wellbeing and addressing these inequalities may result in considerable improvements in quality of life for large numbers of individuals," he added.

Professor Richard Watt, UCL's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health head, pointed out possible policy implications the study had, saying some of the areas organizations can focus on are the underlying causes of oral diseases like poor dental hygiene and sugary diets.

Overall though, oral health has improved in Britain, with young adults displaying better oral health than they ever had.

The study received funding support from the Economic and Social Research Council.

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