Dental decay still too common in young children

  • Date: 08 October 2014

ONE in eight children age three in England suffer from tooth decay according to a survey by Public Health England.

PHE found that those children affected had an average of three decayed teeth due to the disease.

The survey also found a wide variation of tooth decay prevalence across the country, ranging from 2 per cent to 34 per cent. PHE singled out the East Midlands, North West, London, and Yorkshire and the Humber as the four regions with the highest prevalence. The variation is linked to a number of factors including deprivation, the availability of fluoridated water and feeding bottles containing sugar-sweetened drinks.

The Dental public health epidemiology programme, oral health survey of 3-year-old children 2013 provides information on the prevalence and severity of dental decay (caries) in three-year-old children attending state or privately funded nurseries, nursery classes attached to schools and playgroups. A total of 53,640 children were examined in 145 upper tier local authorities, representing 8 per cent of the total age three population across England.

Responding to PHE’s figures Dr Christopher Allen, Chair of the BDA’s Dental Public Health Committee, said: "As tooth decay is largely preventable, parents, nurseries, retailers, governments and dental professionals must all play their part to reduce, if not eliminate, this disease.

"Parents and carers may feel that giving sugar-sweetened drinks is comforting, but in reality it’s more likely to cause pain and suffering as it is the major cause of tooth decay in toddlers. Worse still, thousands of these youngsters end up having to be admitted to hospital to have rotten teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.

"Prevention and education are the key to tackling this disease with parents leading by example. It’s never too soon to take your toddler to the dentist – ideally no later than 18 months – because dentists can identify and treat tooth decay at the earliest stage and advise parents on tooth brushing and prevention.

"But government also has a major responsibility to invest in prevention. From sugar controls at check-outs to targeted oral health interventions, we must find ways of ensuring good oral health from an early age.

"This survey testifies to the effectiveness of water fluoridation as an important and safe measure in reducing the gap between children with the best and worst dental health.

"Until we see the political will to end this scandal, governments will keep footing the bill for preventable treatment and very young children will continue to suffer unnecessary pain and undergo traumatic hospital procedures."

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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