Survey figures published by Public Health England (PHE) show the state of oral health of five-year-olds in the North West, Yorkshire and The Humber and the West Midlands has worsened since the last survey in 2014-2015, bucking a previous improving trend. Overall, in 2016-2017, 23.3 per cent of five-year-olds in England experienced tooth decay, improving from 24.7 per cent in 2014-2015.
More than a third (33.9 per cent) of five-year-olds in the North West have tooth decay, according to PHE’s data. The proportion of five-year-olds with tooth decay is also very high in Yorkshire and The Humber, where 30.4 per cent have rotting teeth. In the West Midlands more than a quarter (25.7 per cent) of five-year-olds are suffering decay.
The Faculty of Dental Surgery has said that although an overall drop in the percentage of 5-year-olds is welcome and reflects the work that has gone into educating families about oral health in recent years, including through NHS England’s new Starting Well programme, more needs to be done to stop deterioration in the worst affected areas of England.
Stephen Fayle, Board Member of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at The Royal College of Surgeons, said: “We are very disappointed the proportion of young children with tooth decay has increased in some areas of England, especially as this deterioration has occurred in parts of the country where decay levels are already high. This growing inequality is despite efforts to educate children, parents and carers. It is even more concerning when you consider that approximately ninety per cent of dental decay is preventable.
“More work must be done to understand why the message isn’t getting through in these areas, or if it is, why it isn’t leading to the decrease in tooth decay, seen in other parts of the country. With so many children still suffering from decay, we also need to make sure children can easily access NHS dental services, which are free for under-18s.
“We are pleased the overall number of five-year-olds in England with tooth decay continues to decrease. Many, including the Faculty of Dental Surgery, have worked hard in recent years to make people aware of the awful state of our children’s teeth.
“We can’t let children’s oral health fall off the Government’s agenda. We need to be constantly pushing for public health initiatives that remind families to brush teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, reduce sugar consumption and visit the dentist routinely.
“We would also like to see the promising ‘Starting Well’ initiative rolled out more widely across the country – for example, there are currently no programmes in the West Midlands even though this region has seen a rise in levels of tooth decay.”
The full results of the oral health survey of five-year-old children 2017 published by Public Health England are available here: www.gov.uk/government/statistics/oral-health-survey-of-5-year-old-children-2017