One in seven three-year-olds in Leeds has rotten teeth, survey finds

One in seven three-year-olds in Leeds has rotten teeth according to the latest figures - with fears raised the situation could go from “bad to worse” due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 6:00 am
One in seven three-year-olds in Leeds has tooth decay, survey finds.

Public Health England’s (PHE) oral health report - which examines the extent of dental decay in pre-schoolers - found 15.1 per cent of three-year-olds surveyed in Leeds over the last two school years had experienced some form of dental decay.

The figure was significantly higher than the national average of 10.7 per cent of three-year-olds with tooth decay.

And the British Dental Association (BDA) warned dental health inequalities across the country could "go from bad to worse" after the coronavirus pandemic if the Government does not support services which have faced disruption.

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The PHE report - which surveyed data from 20,000 children across England - showed wide regional variations, with Yorkshire having twice as many pre-schoolers with tooth decay than the East of England, with 14.7 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively.

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In Leeds, where decay was reported, youngsters had on average two rotten teeth but the figures showed overall, the oral health of pre-schoolers had in fact improved since the survey was first carried out by PHE in 2013, when 19.4 per cent of children reportedly had decay.

The authors of the report wrote: “Dental decay is largely a preventable disease.

“Poor oral health impacts on children and families affecting children’s ability to eat, smile and socialise and causing pain and infection with days missed at nursery, and for parents’ work, to attend the dentist and hospital to have teeth out.”

Eddie Crouch, BDA chairman, said: "In a wealthy 21st century nation there's no reason why decay and deprivation still go hand in hand.

"Sadly, millions of missed appointments, lockdown diets and the suspension of public health programmes mean things are set to go from bad to worse when it comes to health inequality.

"It's time for real commitment from the Government if we're going to avert an oral health crisis."

Victoria Eaton, Leeds City Council’s director of public health, said despite the “welcome reduction” in figures since the previous survey, there is still “a lot to do” and said tackling health inequality remains a top priority for the city.

“Early intervention is key to tackling the problem which is why we are currently commissioning a number of evidence-based programmes to improve the oral health of children,” she said.

These include health visitors handing out tooth-brushing packs and information, supervised brushing schemes in primary schools and children’s centres and offering parenting and healthy-lifestyle group programmes.

She added: “Whilst recognising that dental practice services have been affected by Covid-19, we encourage families to please resume making dental check appointments as soon as possible.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to the effective measures to improve the oral health of children, which is why we will be consulting on supervised toothbrushing and removing barriers around water fluoridation.

“We have also taken significant action to reduce the sugar content in food and drink almost 44 per cent of sugar cut from drinks thanks to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy."

They added that a new NHS rule requiring dental practices to hit 60 per cent of their pre-COVID activity until October "is expected to improve access to vital dental services and target groups with the highest needs".

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