Survey uncovers shocking scale of tooth decay in three-year-olds

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ONE child in five aged three in parts of Yorkshire suffers from tooth decay, shocking figures reveal today.

Overall, around one in eight three-year-olds has tooth decay in the region, according to the first survey ever carried out on the age group in England.

But in Leeds and Wakefield nearly 20 per cent of children have dental problems compared to fewer than one in 25 in the East Riding.

Experts are blaming the numbers on parents who give their children sugary food and drinks.

Public Health England found on average 11.7 per cent of three- year-olds nationally had three teeth that are decayed, missing or filled compared to 12.6 per cent in Yorkshire.

In Leicester, as many as a third of children had dental decay, falling to one in 50 in south Gloucestershire.

Experts examined the teeth of more than 50,000 youngsters at their nursery, children’s centre or playgroup during 2012-13.

They found the four regions with highest levels of tooth decay were the East Midlands, North West, London and Yorkshire.

In Bradford, 17 per cent of youngsters had signs of decay, while 15 per cent in Hull, Kirklees and North East Lincolnshire were found to have problems.

In York, decay was found in only seven per cent of children rising to eight per cent in Sheffield and North Lincolnshire.

Officials said that some children had a particular type of decay known as early childhood caries.

This affects the upper front teeth and spreads quickly to other teeth. It is linked to the consumption of sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups.

Kate Jones, consultant in dental public health for Public Health England in the region, said: “While there have been significant improvements to the nation’s oral health, some areas still experience problems with 
tooth decay among young children.

“Tooth decay is a preventable disease, which can be very painful and even result in a child having teeth removed under general anaesthetic, which is stressful for children and parents alike.

“Thankfully, tooth decay in children can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle whereby parents and carers reduce the amount of sugary foods and drinks they give their children and support them to brush their teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, especially just before bedtime.

“It is also important for children to visit the dentist as soon as their first teeth erupt.

“This is free of charge for children and the dentist will be 
able to advise on how to keep 
your child’s teeth and gums healthy.”

Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, welcomed progress against decay.

But he added: “The stark regional inequalities are a cause for concern.

“They highlight a clear need for water fluoridation to help tackle these differences, particularly in the more deprived areas of the country.

“The most important message to remember is it is not the amount of sugar children eat or drink that causes tooth decay, but how often they have sugary foods and drinks.”