Tooth decay in children too high, says chief dental officer

Child in dentist's chair
Image caption The dental survey was carried out by the Cardiff University School of Dentistry

Dental health experts say tooth decay in children remains too high despite latest figures which show a decrease in the number of five-year-olds with problems.

The survey shows 41% of youngsters experienced dental decay in 2011-12, a decrease of 6% since 2007/08.

But chief dental officer David Thomas said dental decay is "still too high".

He launched a Welsh government five-year plan to improve oral health in Cardiff on Monday.

"Prevention is at the core of the plan," he said.

"This is one of our major goals, together with the need to raise awareness of people's responsibility in taking care of their own oral health."

The National Oral Health Plan says over 9,600 children underwent a general anaesthetic for tooth extraction in 2010-11.

And it calls that figure "unacceptable for what is an almost totally preventable disease".

Fluoridate water

"It is a risk to child health and wellbeing that would not be tolerated in other diseases," it said.

"This was one reason for the launch of Designed to Smile in 2008 and why we will continue to support the programme."

The health project teaches children how to brush their teeth properly and it includes the use of fluoride toothpaste.

The report says scientific evidence suggests "almost every proven method to prevent decay includes delivery of fluoride to teeth surfaces".

But it goes on to say that the Welsh government has no plans to fluoridate water supplies in Wales.

Meanwhile, the separate dental survey of five-year-olds confirms 41% of children in Wales experienced dental decay in 2010-11.

It was carried out by the Cardiff University School of Dentistry and Public Health Wales and was published by the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit which is run from the university.

University senior lecturer Maria Morgan said the health of children's teeth in Wales was still lagging behind those from other UK nations.

She said there were multi-factors behind the reasons including socio-economic conditions.

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