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Decaying teeth hits 12% of kids aged three in UK

By Ella Pickover

One in every eight children aged three suffers from tooth decay, stark new figures show.

Some 12% of three-year-olds in England have decaying teeth as parents increasingly give their children sugary foods and drinks, health officials warned.

These youngsters have an average of three teeth that are decayed, missing or filled, Public Health England (PHE) found.

In some parts of the country as many as a third of children this age have dental decay, according to PHE's first national survey of the oral health of three-year-old children in England.

Experts examined the teeth of more than 50,000 youngsters at their nursery, children's centre or playgroup during 2012/13. They found that the four regions with highest levels of tooth decay were the East Midlands, the North West, London and Yorkshire and the Humber.

Officials also said that some children had a particular type of decay known as early childhood caries. This affects the upper front teeth and spreads quickly to other teeth. It is linked to the consumption of sugary drinks in baby bottles or sipping cups.

PHE said that parents should reduce both the amount and how often sugary foods and drinks are given to their children and also urged them not to add sugar to weaning foods or drinks.

Parents and carers should also start brushing children's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears and supervise their tooth brushing until they are seven or eight years old, the health body added. Children's teeth should be brushed twice daily, including just before bed, using a fluoride toothpaste.

PHE also advised parents to only use sugar-free medicines.

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