More than a quarter of Yorkshire’s children start school with tooth decay

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More than a quarter of five-year-olds in Yorkshire and the Humber start school with decayed, missing or filled teeth, new figures have revealed.

Despite the figure being higher than the national average, 28.5 per cent compared with just under 25 per cent, Public Health England said the statistics represent a drop in the number of five-year-olds in the region with tooth decay.

The number has fallen from 33.6 per cent in the last survey in 2012 and 38.7 per cent in 2008.

Dr Jenny Godson, national lead for oral health improvement at Public Health England, said: “This is great news. However, one child with tooth decay is one too many.

“While this survey shows things are improving in Yorkshire and the Humber, there is still some way to go and our figure remains above the percentage for England as a whole - there is still much inequality in dental health around the country.

“Tooth decay is painful and too often results in teeth extraction, some under general anaesthetic.”

Nationally, the number of five-year-olds suffering from tooth decay has dropped to its lowest level in almost a decade.

The statistics, from more than 100,000 children across the country, show significant regional variation in the rates of tooth decay among youngsters.

Across the country one in 40 five-year-olds have had rotten teeth removed, including 3.9 per cent of youngsters in Yorkshire and the Humber. This compares to just 1.9 per cent in the East Midlands.

In the South East, 80 per cent of five-year-olds have a clean bill of oral health but in the North West the figure stands at just 67 per cent.

Professor Nigel Hunt, dean of faculty of dental surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons, said the national improvements in oral health should not lead to complacency.

“We cannot overemphasise the importance of teaching children to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and making sure they consume less sugary food and drinks,” he said.

“Parents also need to ensure their children visit a dentist at least once a year from the first year of age - 40 per cent of children do not.

“The Government has begun to make steps in the right direction by introducing a sugar levy. It now needs to put real effort into improving access to NHS dentists and laying out a coherent children’s oral health strategy that takes into account the social inequalities in the prevalence of tooth decay this survey highlights.”

The chairman of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said the modest improvements were “not the breakthrough our children deserve”.

He said: “We are paying the price for decades of government indifference, which has left persistent oral health inequalities and an ever-growing number of kids facing extractions in hospital.

“It is a scandal that one in four young children are now living with decay. Sadly Westminster has been unwilling to embrace innovation or break with the failed government targets that have held back a genuinely preventive approach to oral health.

“It is now imperative that ministers provide a strategy and a contract that can put prevention first.”