The UK’s public health body has warned there are ‘clear inequalities’ in oral health with children from deprived areas more likely to be affected by tooth decay.
The latest Public Health England (PHE) figures have revealed a ‘steady decline’ in the levels of tooth decay in five year old children.
In 2017, 23.3% of five year olds in England had decayed, missing or filled teeth. This is down from 30.9% in 2008.
However, despite this overall improvement in oral hygiene, children from poorer backgrounds are still likely to be ‘hit the hardest’, according to PHE.
‘It’s encouraging to see dental decay declining across England, however almost a quarter of five year olds are still suffering from this preventable condition,’ said Dr Sandra White, dental lead for PHE.
‘Children in our most deprived communities continue to be hit the hardest – we need more local authorities using targeted interventions to reduce these inequalities.’
According to PHE, 80% of local authorities had an oral health needs assessment in place, with 73% commissioning oral health improvement programmes for 0-5 year olds.
Responding to these latest figures, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘Tooth decay is largely preventable, yet is the most common oral disease affecting children and young people.
‘The findings of this survey highlight the need for urgent investment in oral health education so that parents and children understand the impact of sugar on teeth and the importance of good oral hygiene.
‘As LGA analysis revealed earlier this year, there are 170 operations a day taking place in hospitals to remove teeth in children and teenagers.
‘Untreated dental care remains one of the most prevalent diseases affecting children and young people’s ability to speak, eat, play and socialise.
‘This study underlines how regular check-ups at a dentist can help prevent tooth decay and the need for hospital treatment.’