Friday Headlines

the weekly newsletter from EHS

Article by Maria Sharobeem

16 October 2020

In this week's Friday Headlines, we feature an article written by one of our Year 13 girls, Maria Sharobeem. In this article, Maria has explored topics relating to her A Level Subjects, Sociology and Biology.

How does Material Deprivation affect Oral Health?

You’re 16 years old. Having just complete three long strenuous years of GCSEs, your education isn’t nearly finished. In fact, you’re just getting started. One might even go as far to say that GCSEs could be the easiest exams you’ll sit in life (sorry year 11!). You now need to pick A Levels and you have pressures from all different directions. Your parents believe you must pick scientific subjects to have a successful career as a doctor whereas your teachers believe you excel in humanities and are encouraging you to pursue law.

However, could all these be linked?

Is it possible to study subjects like biology and sociology, not because you need to please your teacher and parents, but because these subjects fit together. Of course they’re not your typical pair or the iconic trio of biology, chemistry and maths but they fit together. Very lightly, but they do fit.

On one end of the spectrum we range from looking at beliefs, crime and families in sociology to the opposite end of biology and explore the human body, wildlife and plants. 

Now, what is the invisible string tying sociology and biology together? 

Material deprivation is the answer.

In simple sociology terms, material deprivation can be defined as the ‘inability to afford basic resources and services.’ The Government’s material deprivation rate is measured by the inability of the population to afford at least four of the following nine items: to pay rent, mortgage or utility bills; to keep their home adequately warm; to eat meat or protein regularly; to face unexpected financial expenses; to go on holiday for a week once a year; own a TV set; own a washing machine; own a car.

Let’s select one of these items to focus on: ‘to eat meat or protein regularly.’ To break this simple statement down: can you afford to have a healthy diet?

Can you afford organic foods which stimulate the development of the body? Can you afford calcium and phosphorus rich foods which promote strong teeth and bones? 

Howard in 2001 noted from studies that young people from poorer homes have lower intakes of energy, vitamins and minerals. We can conclude from this that materially deprived households usually suffer from poor diets leading to poor health, such as weak teeth or undeveloped immune systems. 

This establishes our strong link between sociology and biology. Socioeconomic status leads to health effects, and in particular oral health effects. 

Under Sir Donald Acheson, the Labour Government set up an independent inquiry into inequalities in oral health in Britain. Between different social classes and regions of England there were wide differences in tooth caries and decay. The differences in regions strongly correlate to deprivation. If a person came from a less affluent area, they were usually materially deprived and had worse oral health than those in affluent areas.

In addition, over the last 30 years, data collected in the UK highlights the inequities in dentition due to social class and material deprivation. 

The Acheson Report in 1998 concluded, with high scientific evidence, that materially deprived households with poor living and working conditions, a lack of food supplies and access to essential goods and services have a high potential impact of oral conditions, such as tooth decay and edentulous problems which can increase the risk of different systematic diseases. 

Furthermore, in England oral cancer for both tongue and mouth has showed stark differences between affluent areas and deprived areas. The Standard Registration Ratios (SRR) concluded in a study, conducted from 1986-1991, that the oral cancer for males was 142 in deprived areas and 61 for the most affluent areas. Similarly, for females it was 127 compared to 44.

Lastly, the reason there is a large gap in oral treatment in different social groups is down to - you guessed it- money! More affluent areas and higher social classes can afford oral treatment to reduce the risk of dental diseases, whereas deprived areas cannot.

In conclusion, a link between oral health inequalities and material deprivation is clear. Different studies and methods have highlighted that deprived areas are usually more susceptible to oral cancer and health issues due to various different reasons, ranging from poor diets and high sugar consumption to the inability to afford proper dental care.


Resources (04/10/20):


by Maria Sharobeem

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