Why the RAF has better teeth than the Army

A pilot study in the Royal Naval Medical Service journal found that Army recruits tend to have worse teeth than Navy recruits, and that RAF recruits have the best teeth of the three services. In fact RAF recruits had on average more than half the tooth decay of Army recruits.

“Army recruits had a mean number of 2.59 (2.08, 3.09) decayed teeth per recruit, compared to 1.93 (1.49, 2.39 p<0.01) in Royal Navy recruits and 1.26 (0.98, 1.53 p<0.001) in Royal Air Force recruits.”

So why is this? The authors note that it may be related to the different socioeconomic background of new recruits. They point out that 62.7% of new Army recruits were from the 40% most deprived areas on the IMD, compared to 42.5% of Navy recruits and 36.6% of RAF recruits, concluding that the difference in dental health between recruits “is likely to be a reflection of the socio-demographic background from which they are drawn.”

HSCIC (Health and Social Care Information Centre) data on hospital admissions for tooth decay supports this, finding a strong link between deprivation and poor dental health. From December 2011 to November 2012 patients from the most deprived 10% made up almost a fifth (18%) of all recorded hospital visits due to tooth decay, while those from the least deprived 10% made up only 4% of admissions. Other HSCIC stats show that out of all hospital visits for dental issues, the proportion caused by tooth decay or ‘dental caries’ increases with deprivation. It was the main diagnosis in 61.2% of cases with patients from the most deprived decile and 31.9% of cases among patients from the least deprived decile.

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