Tooth decay - special report

Shocking figures reveal the level of tooth decay in children
Shocking figures reveal the level of tooth decay in children

NEARLY four in 10 children under the age of five in Wigan borough have rotten teeth, shocking new figures show.

A report released by Public Health England found that 37.6 per cent of children under five in the borough have decayed, missing, or filled teeth.

This is far higher than the national average of 27 per cent and one of the highest rates in the North West

Dr Kate Ardern, Wigan Council’s director of public health, said: “Oral health is integral to overall health and well-being. As director of public health, I believe it is imperative that we work towards laying solid foundations for good oral health throughout life.

“Our strategy is focused on prevention. There is a wealth of evidence that tooth decay and gum disease can be prevented and it is important to begin these preventive practices as early in life as possible.

“In Wigan borough we have already developed a strong base with our local community dentists. The majority are already providing excellent service, including a number of prevention and enhanced services.

“We wish to build on this strong foundation by better utilising the unique expertise that our dentists and their employees can provide. Our Oral Health Strategy, attached, sets out five key actions the public can take to reduce the risks of tooth decay and gum disease.

“In addition, Wigan Council is working with community dentists and the Local Dental Committee to develop a proposal for a Healthy Living Dentistry programme, based on our existing and very successful Healthy Living Pharmacy programme, to better utilise the unique expertise that local dental teams can provide to improving the health and well-being of people in Wigan Borough.”

Tooth decay is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Bacteria in the plaque feed on sugars from food and drink, and produce an acid that slowly destroys teeth stems largely from a poor diet, but also poor dental care - not brushing teeth properly and not visiting the dentist often enough.

Although healthy adult teeth will come through in children whose milk teeth have been affected by decay, if such bad habits become ingrained, there will also be problems with those teeth.

A five-year-old normally has 20 milk teeth.

Children with decay had, on average, between three and four affected teeth.

The analysis found three per cent of those with decay had one or more teeth removed, a painful procedure often carried out in hospital under anaesthetic.

There have been improvements - 72 per cent of five-year-olds have no tooth decay, up from 69 per cent in 2008.

Public Health England suggests part of this improvement may be down to increased levels of fluoride in most children’s toothpastes.

Dr Gill Davies of the Greater Manchester Public Health England Centre said: “This survey shows the numbers of five-year-olds free from tooth decay has improved, but there is still much to do to reduce the inequalities in levels of dental decay,

“Good home care is the key and parents should brush their child’s teeth twice a day, once just before bedtime and once in the morning.

“The same factors which affect people’s health such as a healthy diet will affect their oral health too so we know there are clear links between levels of depravation and levels of oral health.”

From April this year, local authorities have taken over responsibility for oral health.

Health Minister Lord Howe, said: “We know more work is needed to make sure good oral health is more consistent right across the country.

“However, we have some of the lowest decay rates in the world.”