Healthy smiles for Welsh children

19 June 2018

Children brushing teeth

A new report of dental health in Wales reveals a steady and consistent reduction in the prevalence of tooth decay in 11 to 12-year-olds.

The Cardiff University-led research, funded by and undertaken with Public Health Wales, shows that the percentage of children experiencing tooth decay has dropped significantly from 45% in 2004/05 to 30 % in 2016/17.

The longer term trend shows a steady decline from 63% in 1988/89 to 30% in 2016/17.  Within the 30% of children with tooth decay in 2016/17, there was an average of 2.1 adult teeth decayed, missing or filled.

The report, based on a survey of 5,700 11 to 12-year-old children at schools in Wales in 2016/2017, is the latest published by the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit. It assessed the health of permanent (adult) teeth which emerge between the ages of 6 and 12.

Maria Morgan, study lead, from the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit at Cardiff University, said: “Whilst this significant reduction in decay is encouraging, there is still work to be done especially when efforts to restrict sugar intake are competing with the marketing of sugar-laden snacks and the inclusion of sugar in processed foods and drinks.

“We hope that in the longer term the impacts of Designed to Smile, our national oral health improvement programme, will demonstrate a larger impact on decay levels in this age group.”

Anup Karki, Dental Public Health Team Lead and Consultant in Dental Public Health for Public Health Wales, said:  “The series of surveys highlight considerable improvements in oral health amongst 11 to 12-year-olds in Wales, however, we should not forget that the burden of this preventable disease is still considerably high.

“Sustained multilevel interventions to reduce sugar consumption in the population, delivery of effective prevention and necessary dental care will be required to reduce the impact of this preventable disease on children.”

The study also revealed that between 2004 and 2017, there has been a continued and similar level of reduction in the prevalence of dental caries across all social groups.

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