Oral health

Facts, figures and trends

Nationally the prevalence of dental caries in young children has decreased substantially over the past 40 years. The greatest improvements in the decay experience of five-year-olds was seen between 1973 and 1983, during which time the mean number of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT) per child halved and the percentage of children without any caries (caries free) doubled. However national trend data (data prior to 2006) suggest that caries disease levels are now declining slowly or are now static.

The results of the national BASCD dental survey of five-year-old children since 2007 is shown in Table 1.

Socially disadvantaged children experience disproportionately high levels of dental disease. This is reflected in the table below (Table 1) the DMFT levels being higher -almost 3 fold in those who have experience of dental caries than the mean DMFT for Central Bedfordshire 5 year old children. This shows there are still substantial improvements to be made, as these averages mask oral health inequalities.

Table 1 compares the mean DMFT for Bedfordshire for all five year olds compared to the DMFT in children who have had decay experience. The figures show that there are inequalities as the children who have decay experience have three teeth affected more than the average five year old child. Table 1 also has the DMFT scores for England.

Table 1: Mean Decayed, Missing and Filled Teeth (DMFT) in all Children aged 5 years (the lower the DMFT score the better the dental health)


Central Bedfordshire

Mean DMFT only in children who have expereicned decay within NHS Bedfordshire England
2007/08 0.65 2.81 1.11
2011/12 0.50 3.03 0.94

Source: BASCD data

Table 2 below shows the DMFT scores in 12 year children. Again the figures show that children living in Bedfordshire have better dental health than the average child in England, however inequalities do exist when comparing mean DMFT score for the number of teeth affected by caries with the mean DMFT score in children who have decay experience- the difference is six fold.

Table 2: Mean Decayed, Missing and Filled Teeth (DMFT) in children aged 12 years (low is good)


Central Bedfordshire

Mean DMFT only in children who have experienced decay in Central Bedfordshire England
2008/09 0.55 1.90 0.74

Source: BASCD data

Public Health England national dental epidemiology survey (1) of oral health in five-year-old and twelve-year-old children attending special support settings was conducted in 2014. There were not enough children who had consented to take part in examinations locally in Central Bedfordshire, however, nationally 22% of five year old children attending special support settings had dental caries experience. Amongst twelve-year-old children, 29% of children attending special support settings had dental caries experience.

As well as disadvantaged groups experiencing more dental decay, there is evidence that cigarette smoking (2) is responsible for the gap in life expectancy between socially advantaged and disadvantaged groups. So as well as other primary care health professionals being involved in smoking cessation dentists could help to reduce the life expectancy gap by providing Level 2 smoking cessation services within dental practices.


(1) Dental Public Health Oral health survey of five-year-old and 12-year-old children attending special support schools 2014, Public Health England September 2015, gateway 2015218

(2) Jarvis MJ, Wardle J (2006) Social patterning of individual health behaviours: the case of cigarette smoking. Social determinants of health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.




Last updated Friday, 22nd April 2016