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Who does childhood dental caries affect?
Dental caries continues to be a serious problem. Affecting 2.4 billion people, it is the most prevalent disease worldwide.1 Although a highly prevalent condition, the impact of childhood dental caries is often underappreciated as the disease is rarely life-threatening or overtly limiting on daily activities. However, it carries significant consequences for children in terms of day-to-day living and it is expensive to treat.
Dental caries has a linear relationship with poverty, affecting those in lower socioeconomic groups most. This variation in disease levels is stark and can be clearly seen in the UK, with 56% of 5-year-old children in the deprived regions of Blackburn and Darwen having visible decay, but only 4% in the more affluent South Gloucester similarly affected. In England as a whole, a quarter of 5-year-olds have visible dental caries, with an average of three to four decayed teeth each. Tooth extraction is the sixth most common reason for admittance to hospital for general anaesthesia (GA) for the under 5s and the single most common reason for children aged 5–9 years old.2 These figures are reflected across Europe, the USA and beyond.
What is the impact of childhood dental caries?
The consequences of the disease have significant impacts on children’s daily lives. These include pain,3 interference with sleep and loss of time4 from school. Around 50% of children aged 12 and 15 years old report toothache, and around a quarter of them experience difficulty eating. Dental caries can also affect the general health and quality of life of children, impairing growth and cognitive development, and interfering with nutrition and school attendance.5 In 2013, 6% of 12-year-olds and 3% of 15-year-olds reported difficulty with schoolwork because of the condition of their teeth and mouth over the previous 3 months.6
Dental caries affects one in three 12-year-olds in the UK. It has a positive association with …
Contributors Both authors conceived the ideas for the subject matter of the manuscript, drafted the paper, revised and agreed on the final content.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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