At the moment, child tooth decay seems like a major problem in the UK. Many young people are eating diets high in sugar and not taking enough care of their teeth, which is leading to a rise in oral health problems. However, it is not all doom and gloom: one study shows that tooth decay is falling in Wales.
A report has recently been compiled by the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit – an organisation based at Cardiff University – and Public Health Wales. In it, statistics show that tooth decay among 12-year-old children has fallen over the last few years.
In 2004-05, 45.1 per cent of Welsh 12-year-olds had some kind of tooth decay. The report, which highlighted similar data from 2012-13, showed that this number has fallen by almost nine percentage points, to 36 per cent.
This means that in a class of 30 children, around 19 will have no trace of tooth decay. Back in 2004-05, 16 of the children in such a class would be suffering from the disease in some way. This is a fantastic improvement for oral health in the UK, even though it only applies to quite a specific demographic group.
Mark Drakeford, Welsh health minister, said: “It is encouraging more children have no obvious decay experience in their permanent teeth by the age of 12.” Over the last 25 years, the number of young people with tooth decay has fallen by more than 50 per cent. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, as there is a clear link between deprivation and tooth decay.
In Wales, a number of campaigns have contributed to this. “Our ‘Designed to Smile’ programme has been working with younger children; we hope its effects will be seen in future surveys and will have had a positive impact in speeding up improvements in the oral health of children living in some of our more deprived communities,” said Mr Drakeford.