The number of children aged 12 and 15 with tooth decay has declined since 2003, figures released by the HSCIC have shown.
The Children's Dental Health Survey 2013, found that between 2003 and 2013, the number of 15- and 12-year-olds with 'obvious decay experience' (caviated or visual signs of tooth decay) fell by 10% and 9% respectively. In 2013, 46% of 15-year-olds, and 34% of 12-year-olds had tooth decay, compared to 56% and 43% respectively.
Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Foundation, said: 'It's always pleasing to see any level of improvements in oral health, particularly for children. Having said that, it is very much a mixed bag of results. Many of these children are starting school with tooth decay and carrying in through their education. Three in 10 five-year-olds have visible signs of decay yet by the time they reached 15 that shoots up to close to one in two. This still highlights significant room for improvement.'
The survey also found that the number of young people with untreated decay in permanent teeth has also declined. In 2003, 32% of 15 year-olds and 29% of 12 year-olds had not received treatment for their tooth decay, in comparison to 21% and 19% respectively in 2013.
The survey also found that socioeconomic factors affected a child's oral hygiene. For example, 26% of 15-year-olds who were eligible for free school meals had severe or extensive tooth decay, in comparison to 12% of 15-year-olds who were not eligible for free school meals.
Dr Carter added: 'There is a wealth of evidence to suggest childhood tooth decay is very much associated with deprivation. Even in this survey children who were from lower income families and eligible for free school meals are more likely to have oral disease than other children of the same age.'
He also suggested that widespread water fluoridation could further reduce the rate of tooth decay in young people. He said: '[The figures] highlight a clear need for water fluoridation to help tackle these differences, particularly in the more deprived areas of the country. The addition of fluoride in toothpaste alone has been responsible for reducing decay by up to 50%. Levels of dental decay have also fallen in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in the UK, yet only 12% of the population have fluoridated water.'