Headline Statistics

Baby teeth removals ‘up 24% in a decade’
These bloody statistic things really piss me off.
They quote a big headline figures, and then make it difficult to work out something sensible.
For your information: allowing for the 16% increase in the UK (0-4) population over the last 10 years, I calculate an increase of 6.6% (of the order of 550 extra for the whole UK, by the way – that’s a couple of extra kids in the whole of Southampton, I think.)
And since they mention it, they clearly thought it might be relevant, but don’t bother to work it out.
Of course any figures are not nice, but 7% is a loooong way from 24%.

And it is the Royal College of Surgeons‘s fault – their press release is the offending document.
As so often happens, they create the biggest nonsense figure they can think of and then put it in the headline.
It would even have been natural to put the sensible (population-normalised) figure in the table in their Note 3, but they chose to leave it out.

Actually, there is possibly a really interesting story here.
It turns out that much of the increase is in the last 5 years or so. Could it be that in the post-2008 financial climate, people in general are not going to the dentist? Ah, you might say, but children are free. Yes, but recent reports suggest that children aren’t going to the dentist because their parents aren’t.

By the way, the same organisation’s Report on the State of Children’s Oral Health is much more sensible than the press release. It says:

However, it is not immediately clear why the number of hospital admissions for children with dental caries is increasing. One possible explanation is the similar percentage increase in the birth rates of these children, but there has not been a significant change in the level of treatment for children with dental caries in primary care. Other explanations could be that children are not being treated appropriately in primary care, or they are seeking dental treatment when the caries is already at an advanced stage so must be referred to specialist services. Alternatively, it could be that preventive measures such as moderating the consumption of sugar and/or brushing teeth are decreasing.

One final comment – in 2000, Department of Health changed its recommendation about general anaesthetic, saying that it should only be done in hospital, due to safety concerns. It is always interesting to think about what other policy changes might have contributed to statistical changes. For example, it may have taken a while for the advice to be implemented, or maybe that has contributed to a change in dentists’ behaviour, in that they are more likely to recommend extraction in a hospital than extensive other work in the surgery.
7% (of the order

Flattr this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.