The Dentist Magazine.

Smiles all ‘round: children’s oral health improving in Wales

Published: 07/07/2017

A new report, published today, shows the proportion of five-year-old children with poor dental health in Wales is continuing to fall, with children from the most deprived backgrounds seeing the biggest reduction in tooth decay over the last decade.

The report by Public Health Wales is the latest dental survey of five-year-old children in Wales, undertaken by the Welsh Oral Health Information Unit, as part of the NHS dental survey programme.

The report shows:

  • A reduction in the proportion of children with decay between 2007-08 (47.6 per cent) and 2015-16 (34.2 per cent). This represents continuing improvement of the proportion of children who have no obvious decay experience by age five. In 2015-16, in a class of 30 children 20 will have no decay experience. This compares with 16 decay-free in a class of 30 children in 2007-08.
  • The all-Wales mean decay experience (decayed missing and filled teeth – dmft) has also continued to reduce from 1.98 in 2007-08, to 1.22 in 2015-16. This represents a 38 per cent reduction in mean dmft scores in nine years.
  • In 2007-08, 14 children out of a class size of 30 would have decay experience, with an average of 4.2 teeth affected. By 2015-16, this had fallen to 10 children out of a class of 30, with an average of 3.6 decayed teeth.
  • Dental disease levels in children in Wales continue to improve across all social groups. In absolute terms, the most deprived quintile has seen the largest reduction in decay prevalence (by 15 per cent) and mean dmft score (by 0.6). There is no evidence of widening inequalities.


Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said, “I’m pleased to see the continued progress in improving children’s oral health. It’s clear that our Designed to Smile programme is making a real impact in improving the oral health of children across Wales but we know that we have to continue seeing these improvements.

“As a government, we are fully committed to tackling all forms of inequality. So, I’m particularly pleased to see that children from the most deprived backgrounds are seeing the biggest reduction in tooth decay.”

Chief Dental Officer for Wales Colette Bridgeman said, “Although we’ve seen great improvements in tooth decay in school year one children over the last decade or so, there is scope for further improvement for the third of children still experiencing tooth decay.

“We know that dental decay starts early. Typically, half of the decay experienced at five years of age will be evident by age three. Therefore, primary intervention will have most impact before the age of three, so we are re-focussing Designed to Smile on the nought-to-five age group, restating the overarching aim of the programme – to keep children decay free by the age of five. This will help us deliver the further improvement we need.”

The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed news that child tooth decay has fallen once again among children in poorer communities across Wales – and urged Whitehall to follow the Welsh Assembly Government’s example.

Mick Armstrong, chair of the BDA, said, “Wales is reaping the benefits of a dedicated strategy to drive down childhood decay. In England children have been offered little more than a few soundbites.

“Tooth decay is the leading reason for hospital admissions among children in all parts of Britain. While Ministers in Whitehall are shrugging their shoulders, their opposite numbers in Cardiff Bay are showing just what’s possible.

“The Welsh Government must build on the success of this initiative. We hope authorities in England are taking note.”