Tooth decay hits quarter of five-year- olds, survey suggests

More than a quarter of five-year-olds
in England have tooth decay, although
the number is down, a survey
suggests.
The analysis by Public Health England
looked at data from 133,000 dental
examinations across the country,
covering 21% of five-year-olds.
It suggested 27% of all five-year-olds
had tooth decay, down from 30% in a
2008 survey.
The British Dental Association (BDA) said
there remained a "deep chasm" between
the best and worst areas.
Deprived areas had the highest numbers
affected by decay.
Figures ranged from 21.2% of five-year-
olds in the south-east to 34.8% in the
north-west.
When the researchers looked at more
localised data, Brighton and Hove was
found to have the lowest percentage
affected by tooth decay, at 12.5%,
compared with the highest figure of
53.2% in Leicester.
Ingrained habits 'danger'
Tooth decay is caused by a build-up of
plaque on the teeth. Bacteria in the
plaque feed on sugars from food and
drink, and produce an acid that slowly
destroys teeth.
Decay stems largely from a poor diet,
but also poor dental care - not brushing
teeth properly and not visiting the
dentist often enough.
Although healthy adult teeth will come
through in children whose milk teeth
have been affected by decay, if such bad
habits become ingrained, there will also
be problems with those teeth.
A five-year-old normally has 20 milk
teeth.
Children with decay had, on average,
between three and four affected teeth.
The analysis found 3% of those with
decay had one or more teeth removed, a
painful procedure often carried out in
hospital under anaesthetic.
There have been improvements - 72% of
five-year-olds have no tooth decay, up
from 69% in 2008.
Public Health England suggests part of
this improvement may be down to
increased levels of fluoride in most
children's toothpastes.
'Lowest decay rates'
Prof Kevin Fenton, director of health and
well-being at Public Health England said:
"This latest survey shows the numbers of
five-year-olds free from tooth decay
have improved but there is still much to
do, dental decay is preventable.
"Parents should brush their children's
teeth for at least two minutes twice a
day, once just before bedtime and at
least one other time during the day.
"Also supervise tooth brushing until your
child is seven or eight years old, either
by brushing their teeth yourself or, if
they brush their own teeth, by watching
how they do it."
From April this year, local authorities
have taken over responsibility for oral
health.
Health Minister Lord Howe, said: "We
know more work is needed to make sure
good oral health is more consistent right
across the country.
"However, we have some of the lowest
decay rates in the world."
Dr Christopher Allen, chairman of the
BDA's public health committee, said:
"This report highlights a welcome
improvement to the overall oral health of
five-year-old children across England,
but it also reminds us of the deep chasm
that exists between those with the best
and worst oral health.
"That divide is based not just on
geography, but also on deprivation."
The BDA's scientific adviser, Prof Damien
Walmsley said: "There remain pockets of
inequality. It's really about targeting
resources so we can get to those
people."
He said trying to instil healthy eating
habits as early as possible was key, as
was ensuring parents regularly took their
children to the dentist.