Oral health of children

This section provides the latest information about oral health of children living in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in New Zealand. Fluoride in drinking-water helps to prevent and reduce tooth decay.

Two measures of children's oral health are:

  • percentage of children who are caries-free
  • the lifetime experience of dental decay - measured as the number of decayed, missing or filled teeth, in primary teeth (dmft) or permanent teeth (DMFT).

On this page:

Children with fluoridated water supplies continued to have better oral health than those without fluoridated supplies

Oral health status differs by region

Oral health continues to improve

Children with fluoridated water supplies continued to have better oral health than those without fluoridated supplies

In 2017, the percentage of children who were caries-free (i.e. have no past or current experience of dental decay), was higher in areas with access to fluoridated drinking-water supplies for both 5-year-old children and children in school-year 8 groups. 

Sixty-one percent of 5-year-old children who lived in fluoridated areas were caries-free, compared to 60% in non-fluoridated areas (Figure 1). For children in school-year 8 who lived in fluoridated areas, 69% were caries-free, compared to 63% in non-fluoridated areas (Figure 2). 

Māori and Pacific children in both age groups had lower caries-free percentages compared to other ethnicities (Figure 1, Figure 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2

Among all ethnicities and both age groups, the mean number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (dmft/DMFT) was lower in fluoridated areas compared to non-fluoridated areas (Figure 3, Figure 4).

Māori and Pacific had higher mean dmft scores among 5-year-old children and children in school-year 8 compared to other ethnicities. This difference was larger among 5-year-old children. Pacific children aged 5-years-old had a mean of 3.2 dmft and Māori a mean of 2.8 dmft. This compares to just 1.2 dmft for Non-Māori/Non-Pacific 5-year-old children (Figure 3)

Figure 3

Figure 4

Oral health status differs by region

In 2017, the DHBs with the lowest caries-free percentages for 5-year-old children were Northland, Counties Manukau, Lakes, Bay of Plenty and Tairawhiti (Figure 5).

For children in school-year 8 the DHBs with the lowest caries-free percentages were Northland, West Coast, Lakes Bay of Plenty (Figure 6). For children in school-year 8 the DHBs with the highest caries-free percentages were Waikato, MidCentral, Wairarapa and Capital & Coast (Figure 6).

Figure 5: Percentage of 5-year old children that are caries-free, by District Health Board (DHB), in 2017 (expand legend to toggle between dmft and caries-free percentages)

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Figure 6: Percentage of children in Year 8 that are caries-free, by District Health Board (DHB), in 2017 (expand legend to toggle between DMFT and caries-free percentages)

Oral Health continues to improve

Overall, oral health in 5-year-old children and children in school-year 8 has improved between 2000 and 2017.  Improvements can be seen in non-fluoridated as well as fluoridated communities.

Between 2000 and 2017, the level of children in school-year 8 that were caries-free increased from 42% to 66%. In the same time-frame, the level of 5-year-old children that were caries-free increased from 52% to 61%.

Between 2000 and 2017, the mean number of DMFT of children in school-year 8 dropped from 1.6 to 0.7.

Five-year-old children had, on average, 1.8 dmft in 2017. The overall mean dmft increased between 2000 and 2007 but decreased from 2008 to 2017. It is now at the same level as in 2000.

In New Zealand, the community oral health service collects oral health data for 5-year-old children and children in school-year 8 (12–13-year-olds) [1].

For more data, go to the  Ministry of Health 's oral health data and stats webpage

References

  1. Ministry of Health. (2018). Oral health data and stats 2017. URL: http://www.health.govt.nz/nz-health-statistics/health-statistics-and-data-sets/oral-health-data-and-stats/age-5-and-year-8-oral-health-data-community-oral-health-service (accessed November 2018).