North-south divide exposed as Surrey children buck dental ‘crisis’ to shine in teeth survey

Children in Surrey have the second healthiest sets of teeth in the country, a Public Health England survey has revealed.

New data from PHE showed that only 140 of the 1,071 five-year-olds in the county who had the state of their teeth recorded in 2016/17 had obvious signs of decay.

That works out as just 13%, more than 10% lower than the national average of 23.3%.

It was also a significant improvement on when the data was last published for 2014/15, when 16.9% of five-year-olds in Surrey had obvious decay.

Despite that, it wasn’t quite the lowest figure in England. That honour goes to Cambridgeshire where only 12.9% of five-year-olds have obvious decay.

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The British Dental Association this year called childhood tooth decay a “crisis”.

In some parts of the country – such as Rochdale, in Greater Manchester – nearly half of all five-year-olds already have obvious decay.

The data suggests something of a dental health divide between the north and south.

The five places where more than 40% of five-year-olds had obvious signs of decay – Rochdale, Salford, Manchester, Blackburn and Knowsley – were all in the north west.

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The seven places where fewer than 15% of five-year-olds had no obvious signs of decay – north Somerset, Essex, Bexley, Hampshire and East Sussex, as well as Surrey and Cambridgeshire – were all in the south and east of England.

Tooth decay in children has been declining in most places over recent years, but it remains a significant public health concern, the PHE figures show.

Experts have blamed the over-consumption of sugary foods, children failing to brush twice a day and sporadic or non-existent visits to the dentist.

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