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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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8 Dental caries (decay)

Dental caries, or tooth decay, is a mostly preventable physical health condition that can have a profound impact on children’s health and wellbeing, both in childhood and across their lifespan. 

Despite dental caries being a mostly avoidable health condition, the oral survey of health in 2020 found that 11 per cent of children had visible tooth decay, and the average number affected was 3 (Office for Health Disparities and Improvement, 2022). In England, children from deprived areas living in poverty experience twice the level of dental decay compared to children in less deprived areas (Public Health England, 2019).

A photograph of a child with decaying teeth
Figure 7 Dental decay is a significant cause of poor health in young children

Although dental decay is avoidable for most children, those who have complex medical needs or special educational needs may find it difficult to avoid dental decay. For example, children who need medication for some epilepsy may develop gum disease as a side effect of the medication which can lead to poor oral health