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More than a third of 12-year-olds embarrassed to smile because of their teeth

19 March, 2015: More than a third (35 per cent) of 12-year-olds and 28 per cent of 15-year-olds say they have been embarrassed to smile or laugh due to how they felt about the condition of their teeth during the past three months, a survey (2) published today shows (3).

*HSCIC must be quoted as the source of these figures

The Children's Dental Health (CDH) Survey 2013 shows reductions in the proportions of 12 and 15-year-olds with obvious decay4 in their adult teeth since the last time the survey was carried out in 2003. However, tooth decay was still found in 34 per cent of 12-year-olds (43 per cent in 2003) and 46 per cent of 15-year-olds (56 per cent in 2003).

The survey also finds that around a third (31 per cent) of five-year-olds and 46 per cent of eight-year-olds have decay in their milk5 teeth6.

The Children's Dental Health (CDH) Survey 2013 is published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and provides information on the dental health of children in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The report also shows:

  • As in previous CDH surveys, the proportions of children with tooth decay varied between England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For instance, at age 15 in 2013 the proportions with decay in adult teeth were 44 per cent in England (55 per cent in 2003), 63 per cent in Wales (65 per cent in 2003) and 72 per cent in Northern Ireland (78 per cent in 2003).
  • Among five-year-olds from more deprived families7, 41 per cent had tooth decay, compared to 29 per cent among other five-year-olds from less deprived families. For 15-year-olds from more deprived families, the proportion with tooth decay was 59 per cent, compared to 43 per cent among 15 year olds from more less deprived families.
  • Nearly two fifths (38 per cent) of children were classed as having good overall oral health, meaning they had no obvious decay, no tooth surface loss into dentine8 and no tartar.
  • Parents said that nine in ten children of all ages attend the dentist for a regular check-up.
  • Among 12-year-olds, 69 per cent of boys and 85 per cent of girls reported brushing their teeth at least twice a day. Among 15-year-olds, 73 per cent of boys and 89 per cent of girls said this.
  • Among 12-year-olds, 16 per cent said they have sugary drinks four or more times a day. Among 15-year-olds, 14 per cent said this9.

View the full report at:


Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. The Children's Dental Health Survey (CDH) is commissioned by the HSCIC and is the fifth in a series of national children's dental health surveys that have been carried out every ten years since 1973. The 2013 survey was produced by a consortium led by the Office for National Statistics, and also compromising the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra), the University of Birmingham School of Dentistry, Cardiff University School of Dentistry, Kings College London Dental Institute, Newcastle University School of Dental Sciences and University College London Dental Public Health Group. The 2013 survey was based on a representative sample of children aged 5, 8, 12 and 15 years. A total of 13,628 children were sampled in participating schools, and 9,866 dental examinations were completed.
  3. The 12 and 15-year-olds surveyed filled in a self-assessment to capture their perceptions and attitudes towards their own dental health. While the report also contains data on five and eight year olds, they/their parents were not requested to fill in this self-assessment and therefore there are no data on this issue for children of these ages.
  4. Where the press release gives figures for decay, these relate to the level of decay described in the survey report as 'obvious decay experience'. This includes children who have serious untreated decay, such as decay into the dentine of the tooth, or decay that has been treated by fillings or extractions.
  5. Referred to in the report as 'primary teeth'
  6. Due to changes in survey methodology it is not possible to compare data on tooth decay in five and eight-year-olds in 2013 to data in the 2003 survey.
  7. Measured in the survey as children eligible for free school meals.
  8. Dentine is the layer of the tooth under the enamel.
  9. Data on this subject were taken from the self-assessments of 12- and 15-year-olds and are therefore not available for five and eight-year-olds.
  10. For media enquiries please contact or 0300 30 33 888.
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