Oral health is important to general health and wellbeing; tooth decay is a predominantly preventable disease that can reduce quality of life and is expensive to treat. It can particularly disturb a child’s quality of life by causing pain and infection that may result in sleep deprivation and time off from school. It can also affect nutritional intake in young children which may impact on growth and weight gain. Oral diseases are also associated with heart disease, diabetes complications, rheumatoid arthritis and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
In 2013/14, 95.5% of children who had been looked after continuously for at least 12 months in Wakefield were recoded as having had their teeth checked by a dentist in the last year. This figure is higher than the national and regional averages of 84.4% and 81.4%; it’s also an improvement on the previous year, 2012/13, where the figure was 90.9%.
Additionally, other measures of oral health such as the number of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT) in 5-year old children in 2016/17 has decreased from the previous 2014/15 figure, which is similar to the national average and below the regional average (more information below).
Brushing teeth twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste is recognised as an essential part of preventing tooth decay. The 2015 Children and Young People’s survey asked pupils how often they normally brush their teeth; 18.8% of children aged 9 to 10 years and 11.8% of 13 to 14 year olds stated that they brushed their teeth less than twice a day. Lack of brushing can lead to a build up of plaque, which can then become ‘substantial plaque’. In the 2016/17 Public Health England Dental Survey, 0.6% of 5-year olds in Wakefield were classed as having substantial plaque.
Other measures of dental health include the number of decayed, missing or filled (due to dental decay) teeth (DMFT). The number of DMFT in Wakefield’s 5-year old children has decreased since 2015 to 0.9 per child. This is less than the Yorkshire and The Humber average (1.1) and only slightly higher than the national average (0.8).
The average number of untreated teeth with dental decay (dental caries) per child has almost halved since 2015 to 0.7. This is not only a measure of oral health in children but a measure of access to and quality of dental treatment in the area. The number of untreated teeth is similar to both the national and regional averages (0.6 and 0.8 respectively). The average number of filled teeth per child has stayed the same since 2015, and is the same as the national and regional averages (0.1).
There are inequalities in oral health, with poor oral health being linked to deprivation.
Fewer year 5 pupils in deprived areas brush their teeth at least twice a day, 79% in deprived areas and 88% in least deprived areas. In both year groups less boys than girls reported that they brush their teeth at least twice a day.
Going to the dentist for regular check-ups beneficial as it allows any problems to be identified and treated; leaving problems untreated could make them more difficult to treat in the future. Of pupils aged 9 to 10, 87% reported that they had visited their dentist in the last year, this increases to 94% of 13 to 14 year old pupils.
There is limited comparative data available, making it difficult to comprehensively assess oral health in Wakefield. In 2012 a survey of five year old children was completed, this data indicates that children in Wakefield have a higher number of decayed, missing or filled (DMFT) than national average. The situation in 2015 was similar. According to the latest survey, each five year old child in Wakefield has on average 0.9 teeth that are decayed, missing or filled, compared to 0.8 in England and 1.1 in Yorkshire and the Humber region (2016/17). However, in a different 2013 survey, one in five Wakefield 3 year olds had any decayed teeth. This was the highest rate across all Yorkshire and Humber.
Further information on oral health is available on the JSNA website, under the people and ill health sections, the Oral Health Needs Assessment for Wakefield district and the Children and Young People’s Survey 2015 reports:
Download the full Children’s Oral Health infographic here