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The rotten truth behind Northern Ireland children's teeth

By Nevin Farrell

More than 70% of children in Northern Ireland have rotten teeth - among the worst rates in the UK.

A shock new survey of tooth decay among 15-year-olds has found that those in Northern Ireland have significantly worse teeth than their counterparts in England and Wales.

Some 72% of 15-year-olds here have decay - compared with 63% in Wales and 44% in England.

However, the results of the survey do show an improving situation in the oral health of our teenagers since the survey was last carried out 10 years previously.

Back in 2003, 78% of 15-year-olds in Northern Ireland had tooth rot. The most up-to-date figures are from The Children's Dental Health Survey 2013 and were published yesterday by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

As in previous surveys, the proportion of children with tooth decay varied between England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The specific figures for Northern Ireland showed that the proportion of those with good oral health declined with age.

It found obvious dental decay in milk teeth in 40% of five-year-olds.

Moving on to adult teeth, decay was found in 57% of 12-year-olds and 72% of 15-year-olds. The respective figures for 12 and 15-year-olds in 2003 were 73% and 78%.

Overall, the proportion of 12-year-old children with decay in permanent teeth in Northern Ireland reduced between 2003 and 2013.

However, half of 15-year-olds had visible plaque, while 41% had gum inflammation and bleeding.

Despite the concerning figures, the majority of children held positive views of their dental health.

Two-thirds of 12-year-olds and three-quarters of 15-year-olds reported that their dental health was good or very good.

Despite that, the report also found substantial proportions of children concerned about the appearance of their teeth. Some 42% of 12-year-olds and 27% of 15-year-olds would like to have them straightened.

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