The recent publication of the Children’s Dental Health (CDH) Survey 2013 has revealed that nearly half (46 per cent) of English and Welsh 12 year-olds suffer from at least some tooth decay in their permanent teeth, a figure that rises to 52 per cent for 15 year-olds.
Since the last survey was conducted in 2003, both of these figures have improved slightly. However, Welsh children have continued to experience consistently worse oral health outcomes than their English peers (only 31 per cent of Welsh children had completely healthy teeth), a disparity that experts have suggested could be due to socioeconomic factors.
However, a £12 million scheme launched by the Welsh government in 2009 has been named as a factor in the five per cent drop in Welsh five year-olds with tooth decay. The number of eight year-olds in Wales who said they brushed their teeth twice a day had also risen significantly.
However, the survey indicates that there is still plenty of room for improvement, as a worrying 31 per cent of five year-olds in England and Wales are already showing clear signs of tooth decay.
This is again linked to economic status, as decay in children receiving free school meals was markedly higher than in other groups. A total of 22 per cent of those eligible for free meals and from low-income families were found to have severe and extensive tooth decay, compared to 11 per cent from other areas of society.
Throughout both countries, 35 per cent of 12 year-olds and 28 per cent of 15 year-olds said they were reluctant to smile or laugh due to embarrassment about their teeth. Approximately a fifth in both age groups said they had had difficulty eating in recent months because of dental problems.
The CDH Survey has been conducted once every ten years since it was established in 1973, and has generally shown a trend for steady improvement in the health of children’s teeth over the years.