19 March 2015

The UK's leading oral health charity is delighted that latest statistics reveal children's oral health is improving.

The Child Dental Health Survey 2013 of England, Wales and Northern Ireland reveals significant drops in the level of tooth decay in 12 and 15 year olds compared to 2003. One in three 12-year olds and less than half (46 per cent) of 15-year olds now show signs of obvious dental decay, a reduction from 43 per cent and 56 per cent compared to 20031.

The severity of tooth decay also fell, as the number of children with serious tooth decay falling from one in three to one in five of 15 year olds and from three in 10 to one in five of 12 year olds.

Oral health problems were most severe in Wales and Northern Ireland, with two in five children (41 and 40 per cent respectively) suffering from the disease compared to three in ten (31 per cent) in England.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, cautiously welcomed the results.

Dr Carter said: "It's always pleasing to see any level of improvements in oral health, particularly for children. Having said that, it is very much a mixed bag of results.

"Many of these children are starting school with tooth decay and carrying in through their education. Three in 10 five-year olds have visible signs of decay yet by the time they reached 15 that shoots up to close to one in two. This still highlights significant room for improvement.

One in three 12-year olds and less than half (46 per cent) of 15-year olds now show signs of obvious dental decay, a reduction from 43 per cent and 56 per cent compared to 2003"There is a wealth of evidence to suggest childhood tooth decay is very much associated with deprivation. Even in this survey children who were from lower income families and eligible for free school meals are more likely to have oral disease than other children of the same age.

"They highlight a clear need for water fluoridation to help tackle these differences, particularly in the more deprived areas of the country. The addition of fluoride in toothpaste alone has been responsible for reducing decay by up to 50 per cent. Levels of dental decay have also fallen in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in the UK, yet only 12 per cent of the population have fluoridated water."

Ben Atkins, Clinical Director at Revive Dental Care and Trustee of the British Dental Health Foundation explained how parents and the education sector can do their bit to bring about greater improvements.

Dr Atkins said: "Parents and education workers need to be fully aware of how they can help to reduce the chances of children developing tooth decay. The most important message to remember is it is not the amount of sugar children eat or drink that causes tooth decay, but how often they have sugary foods and drinks. Sugar causes the bacteria in plaque to produce acids. It is these acids which attack children's tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Cheese, breadsticks, nuts and raw vegetables are far better for them.

"The British Dental Health Foundation emphasises that by the age of two and a half years, children should be having regular dental check-ups. Any budding oral health problems can be spotted early. It's crucial for their development and they will be more likely to take the good traits right the way through adulthood.

"All children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). After the age of three, children should use a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm-1500ppm. Encourage them to spit out the toothpaste and not to swallow any if possible, if they do not rinse after spitting the fluoride will remain in the mouth for longer and give the best protection against decay. It is important to supervise your child's brushing until they are at least seven, and encourage them to brush as soon as they get up in the morning and last thing at night. It may sound a simple solution, but collectively we need to improve the current level of tooth decay in children and herald further reductions in the future."


1. Children's Dental Health Survey: England, Wales and Northern Ireland (2014). Health and Social Care Information Centre