The number of five-year-olds suffering from tooth decay has dropped to its lowest level in almost a decade, according to the latest oral health survey published by Public Health England (PHE).1 Less than 25% of the cohort suffers from tooth decay, a 20% drop since 2008.
This continues the downward trend seen since 2008, the first oral health survey of five-year-olds asking parents to opt-in. In 2008 31% of five-year-olds suffered tooth decay; in 2012 it was 27%. The pattern of dental health improvement among the age group shows the impact parents and carers can have in establishing good dental care habits from an early age.
There is still a great deal of regional variation. In the North West, a third (33.4%) of five-year-olds suffer from tooth decay, whereas only a fifth (20.1%) do in the in the South East. As with the two previous surveys, areas with higher levels of deprivation tend to have higher levels of tooth decay.
PHE is working in partnership with national charity 4Children to explore the feasibility of a supervised toothbrushing programme for the under 5s, based in their early years setting. The programme seeks to improve children's oral health by creating a fun, group environment for toothbrushing, setting the foundations for positive oral hygiene in later life.
The charity is exploring the practical implications of this programme in over 70 nurseries and 20 childminder settings, reaching over 5,500 young children. Considerations include potential costs; the impact on staff; the resources required; information for the settings; engagement with parents; partnerships with dental surgeries and the projected benefits to children's oral health.